Wildlife sanctuary measure is killed


A bill that would have guaranteed the continued existence of Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary in western Howard County was killed on an ironic 3-2 vote by the County Council last night.

The deciding "no" vote was cast by newly appointed member Charles C. Feaga, a western county Republican who replaced the bill's sponsor, Allan H. Kittleman, who left the council in October to take his late father's seat in the state Senate.

"We felt very differently on it," Feaga said, adding that Kittleman had lobbied him late yesterday to support a last-ditch compromise amendment supported by two Democrats, council Chairman Guy Guzzone, who represents North Laurel-Savage, and east Columbia's David A. Rakes.

The bill's death leaves Frisky's operator Colleen Layton and her determined supporters to continue a court fight over the shelter, which houses 31 monkeys that neighbors fear could spread disease.

"We want to continue fighting. This is our home," a tearful Layton said as her supporters comforted her in the hallway of the George Howard Building after the vote. If the bill had passed, it would have provided a home in county zoning law for the 13-year-old West Friendship shelter, which has won support from county animal control and police officials.

Rakes' amendment sought a compromise, allowing the shelter as an accessory use in rural zones, but requiring a slow decrease in the number of exotic animals, such as monkeys, until only five would remain after 10 years. The amendment passed on a 3-2 vote, with west Columbia Democrat Ken Ulman supporting it as "a nod" to colleagues' work to craft a compromise.

But Ulman, Feaga and Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon voted against the amended bill, uncomfortable with the size of the shelter site, on just less than 4 acres, and close to homes.

"I believe this kind of animal shelter should be on a larger parcel," Ulman said.

Feaga said he "has a lot of sympathy for people who wanted this," but he said he would not want his grandchildren living close to exotic animals that could carry diseases.

Fred Lauer, attorney for Frisky's, said the long zoning struggle will play out next spring in Howard's Circuit Court, where earlier Board of Appeals rulings on the case have been appealed by both sides. The board ruled in 2003 that the monkeys could remain, subject to county animal control officials' wishes.

In other action, the council:

Unanimously re-elected Guzzone chairman for an unprecedented third consecutive year.

Guzzone and Merdon are expected to run for county executive in 2006, and Merdon said Guzzone could have a political motive for keeping the chair, which is normally occupied by a different member each year.

"He thinks it gives him some sort of advantage for a future election, but it really doesn't matter. I've been more effective without a title," Merdon said.

Approved a bill that would allow creation of a temporary mobile home park for a 15-year period along U.S. 1 in Jessup to help mobile home residents relocate from other parks closing for redevelopment. The site is next to Aladdin Village Mobile Home Park, which is expected to close within five years.

The bill, sponsored by Rakes, was amended to allow people who enter the temporary park to live there for up to 15 years in hardship cases. Others would be limited to 10 years.

Killed a proposal to close Hanover Road near the Anne Arundel County line, which Elkridge residents opposed.

Prohibited use of the county seal for anything besides county business. Merdon used the seal's image on a letter seeking campaign contributions from county liquor license holders in August. He co-sponsored the bill, but noted that his letter was proper at the time it was sent.

Approved authorization for the Housing Commission to buy 50 lots at New Colony Village for residents of the 228-unit manufactured housing development who cannot afford to buy the land under their homes. Residents, in turn, would be able to acquire the land later.

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