Legislation forcing a Kingsville man to find a new home for his 48-pound Siberian lynx won approval last night from Baltimore County lawmakers.
The measure was proposed to end a more than two-year legal battle with Dan Vitilio, who owns the Eagle's Nest wildlife ranch in Kingsville.
Vitilio, 47, was denied a permit from the county to keep the lynx, named Puddy, on the property in 2005. He filed a lawsuit, but the permit denial was upheld at several levels, including the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. After the unfavorable opinion from the state's second-highest court earlier this year, Vitilio asserted that his ranch is a zoo, which would mean he didn't need a permit.
The county countered with a bill to require all nonresearch organizations - including zoos - to obtain permits to have wild animals.
"This man may well be deserving of a permit, but that's an executive function. The question for us is: Should you have a permit to have a wild animal?" said council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz.
All seven members voted in favor of the permit requirement for zoos, but Councilman T. Bryan McIntire expressed reservations about whether a new law would apply to Vitilio's operation. Vitilio sought county recognition as a zoological park in early February. He says he keeps more 200 animals, including pigs and birds, at the 14-acre ranch.
Vitilio held a news conference on the county court plaza last week to denounce the measure. He attended last night's meeting but walked out after the vote.
In other business, the County Council approved a waiver in fees paid for not meeting county open-space requirements by a developer working on a housing project near Towson University.
The development, planned by the Bozzuto Group, a Greenbelt-based developer, includes 160 condominiums, townhouses and single-family houses. But the project has stalled, in part because of the downturn in the housing market.
Under the measure, Bozzuto would pay about $150,000 for waivers to open-space requirements, rather than about $1.5 million, according to Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, the Towson-Perry Hall Democrat who sponsored the legislation.
Gardina pointed out that the waived fees could not have been redirected to anything but buying land for Towson-area parks.