Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary Wants Expansion
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A local primate sanctuary wants alachua County's approval for expansion. The issue was a hot topic at Tuesday night's county commission meeting where residents living alongside Northwest 42nd Avenue are worried about how this affects them.
166 monkeys currently live in Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. If the county approves the expansion, it will allow Jungle Friends to bring in an additional 175 research monkeys.
Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary is a place for monkeys who have been used for research or were pets and come to live out their lives. Since 1998 Jungle Friends has been based in Gainesville and is currently home to 166 monkeys.
"The Jungle Friends folks are very passionate about what they do, they would like for people to understand what they do," said County Commissioner, Robert Hutchinson.
Jungle Friends came before the County Commission on Tuesday to get an approval for a special exception that would expand its agricultural-zoned property from 12 acers to 39. The county staff recommended approving Jungle Friends request with certain conditions -- a 75-foot-wide wetlands buffer and 100-foot boundary setbacks. Leaving Jungle Friends with 13 acres of developable area.
"We're happy to put building setbacks, that's fine. But we want to be able to have our habitats where everyone else does. In the agricultural zoning, it's 20 feet on each side, 40 feet front and back, so we are just asking for the same setbacks as everyone else," said director and founder of Jungle Friends, Kari Bagnall.
But some neighbors who live nearby aren't happy. Letters were written to county commissioners and some showed up to Tuesdays meeting opposing the expansion with concerns of noise and loss of property value.
"What the county was trying to do is protect the neighborhood from their concerns while at the same time giving the people the right to use their land the way they want to use it," said Hutchinson.
The county commission decided to defer the matter until a later meeting to work out the issues regarding the conditions for the special exception. Jungle Friends will have to work out an agreement including the size of the proposed setbacks and bring it to the commissioners in June.
"The commission is doing the right thing balancing the needs of the neighbors and the concerns of the neighbors with the rights of jungle friends with the rights to pursue their mission which is to protect these endangered animals," added Hutchinson.
If the sanctuary expands, it will allow them to bring in research monkeys from a handful of universities.
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