The Hope Planning Board unanimously voted June 21 that the application submitted by veterinarian Jim Laurita to build a barn to house a retired circus elephant is complete.

The project will now go to a public hearing next month to give people a chance to speak for or against the plan. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 5 at 7 p.m. at the Hope Town Office.

Between 10 and 15 people attended the one-hour meeting to listen to the board begin its site plan review. Public comment was not permitted at the meeting. Much of the group cheered after the board voted the application complete.

After the public hearing at the July meeting, the board could take the final votes on the project.

Laurita and his brother Tom Laurita have formed the nonprofit Hope Elephants and plan to bring a 42-year-old Asian elephant, named Rosie, from the Carson and Barnes Circus, located in Hugo, Okla., to Hope to undergo high-end physical therapy to help relieve the nerve paralysis the elephant has developed.

Laurita is looking for planning board approval 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.

The town has received about 15 letters against the project from interested parties all over the United States. The letters state that while the project seems well intentioned, the cold climate of Maine is no place for an elephant, who will need to spend most of her time inside the barn. Elephants are highly social animals and there is concern that Rosie would be isolated. Some people also were concerned with the safety of the public. No letters have been received from Hope residents.

Laurita has previously said the elephant’s medical needs outweigh her social needs and no other facility in the country performs the kind of care he is planning.

The project also has to undergo state and federal permitting.

The planning board held elections at the meeting and Doug Kellough was elected chairman and John Fallows was elected vice chairman.

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