Review: Some exhibits at Tiger World in violation

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Review: Some exhibits at Tiger World in violation
Tue, Feb 5, 2008
Salisbury Post
A county review of the planned Tiger World has found that newly constructed cages housing tigers can’t be part of the public display without a zoning change or approval of a conditional use permit.
And any new buildings or structures would trigger the need for a conditional or special use permit from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
Ed Muire, the county’s planning director, has provided county commissioners with a four-page report on Tiger World, which is scheduled to open soon at 4400 Cook Road, Rockwell, the site of the former Charlotte Metro Zoo.
Muire noted that the former Charlotte Metro Zoo had an operational area that covered four different tax parcels owned by Steve Macaluso.
Lea Juanakais, of Rock Hill, S.C., plans to operate Tiger World and told county planners that she had already purchased one parcel from Macaluso and intended to buy the remaining land from Macaluso on Feb. 1.
County staff couldn’t find any deed to verify her ownership of the parcel where she has erected a series of cages and a perimeter fence that contains two tigers, one lion and two tiger cubs.
“Staff is of the opinion that the area behind the log cabin never operated as part of the Charlotte Metro Zoo exhibit,” wrote Muire. “Staff informed Ms. Juanakais on Jan. 28 that this area may not be associated with Tiger World and she should forfeit her licensure as an exhibitor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or remove the animals in this area.”
In the memo to commissioners, Muire said Juanakais countered by claiming that the area will be used for her personal pets.
Muire said that while the personal pet claim appears suspect, staff is concerned that the area will become part of the Tiger World exhibit over time, thus expanding the size of the facility’s operational area without obtaining the requisite conditional or special use permits.”
“The perception of having her personal pets in a caged area which structurally joins the fencing of Charlotte Metro Zoo/Tiger World in a public exhibition is difficult to draw a distinction between, but even more difficult to regulate based on the nonconforming and exotic animal standards of the county,” he wrote.
In an e-mail to Jaunakais, Planner Shane Stewart wrote that a physical barrier will be required between the personal pet area and Tiger World, and that the barrier must block the pet area from public view. Locked gates will also be required to keep the public out of the pet area.
In responding, Jaunakais noted in an e-mail that multiple people in Rowan County own tigers licensed with the Department of Agriculture. She contended that these people bring the public through for viewing and education.
In Muire’s opinion, the area that was Charlotte Metro Zoo can continue operating as a nonconforming use ? it existed prior to the adoption of zoning in 1998. That provision specifies, “Any nonconforming situation legally existing at the time of adoption or amendment of this article my be continued so long as it remains otherwise lawful subject to conditions provided in this section.”
The findings in the review are:
* Tiger World may occupy the operational area (fenced perimeter) formerly used by the Charlotte Metro Zoo regardless of the number of animals kept. A determination as to whether the conditions of the facility are suitable will be based on Department of Agriculture judgement. The facility has not yet been licensed by the Department of Agriculture. (Department of Agriculture and Rowan County Animal Control approvals to date only apply to the cages in the “personal pet” area.)
* Physical or structural expansions beyond the operational area will require issuance of a conditional or special use permit. Staff is of the opinion that any new building activity within the operational use area that would require a building permit will also be subject to the conditional or special use permit review.
* The area behind the log cabin may remain as an area for Juanakais to maintain her personal pets and will be subject to inspection by Rowan County Animal Control.
* Staff will visit the site once ownership change has been verified and inventory the boundaries and physical structures on site.

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