The Hope Planning Board and Jim Laurita have agreed to continue the site plan review for his plan to build a facility to rehabilitate a retired circus elephant to next month to give Laurita time to review several letters that have been submitted to the town opposing the project.

The town has received 14 letters, many from individuals across Maine and Massachusetts, one from a man who worked with elephants at the North Carolina Zoological Park, one from the Performing Animals Welfare Society and another from an elephant advocacy group named Elephant Voices, both based in California. No letters have been submitted from Hope residents.

Including Laurita, eight individuals attended the June 7 meeting, according to Jon Duke, Hope town administrator. Duke also serves as code enforcement officer. One person from the public spoke, questioning the approval process.

The meeting has been continued to Tuesday, July 5 at 7 p.m. at the Hope Town Office. Duke said it is up to the board’s chairman if public comment will be allowed.

Laurita, a veterinarian at Camden Hospital for Animals, has submitted an application to build a 3,120-square-foot metal building with cedar shingle siding at his home at 43 Hatchet Mountain Road, across from Hatchet Mountain Publick House.

Laurita intends to bring the 42-year-old Asian elephant, named Rosie, from Carson and Barnes Circus, located in Hugo, Okla. Laurita has previously said that Rosie has developed a nerve paralysis and arthritis problems in one of her legs. In addition, she doesn’t mix well with the other elephants and has been isolated from the rest of the herd. Laurita and his brother Tom have formed the nonprofit Hope Elephants with the goal to provide state-of-the-art physical therapy for the elephant.

The letters state that while the project is well-intended, Hope or Maine is no place for an elephant. The letters say that Rosie should be allowed to retire to an elephant sanctuary at facilities in Tennessee or California. Elephants are highly social animals and there is concern that Rosie would be isolated. Some people also expressed concern that cold climates are not good for arthritis and that she would have to be inside the barn for a majority of the year. Some people also were concerned with the safety of the public. Laurita has previously said that Rosie’s health needs outweigh her social needs.

Duke said the planning board’s job is to interpret the land use ordinance and site plan review ordinance and how they apply to the application before them. The site plan review ordinance was not drafted with the thought that an elephant would ever come to Hope, Duke said.

It’s the board’s task to review the application to determine if it is complete, approve the application and then schedule a public hearing, and to inform abutters.

It is up to the board to determine whether the concerns of the public are within the scope of review or not, Duke said.

“This [review] would be a task in any town,” Duke said, noting that Hope does not receive many applications.

The project is also subject to state and federal permitting.

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