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Juan the Dinosaur Headed for City Hall

Zoomars owner Carolyn Franks wants the Planning Commission to override a staff decision that says she has to either remove the Apatosaurus or petition to change the law.

Juan the Dinosaur Headed for City Hall

Juan, the Zoomars Petting Zoo dinosaur, will make his first figurative appearance at City Hall on Tuesday.

It’s going to be a Jurassic Planning Commission meeting. (Or, technically, Triassic.) 

When the 13-foot tall replica of an Apatosaurus first arrived downtown in June, . But others, who prefer to keep the in the 1700s and 1800s, thought Juan was too historical.

Because owner Carolyn Franks did not first get city permission to relocate the replica dinosaur, the city began a code violation case against her. But . 

Rather than seek a lengthy change in city law, Franks asked Community Services Director Grant Taylor for a finding that Juan is consistent with the area’s development laws that seek to “reinforce the rural and historic character of the neighborhood,” according to a staff report to the Planning Commission.

Except, Taylor couldn’t make that finding.

The types of businesses allowed in Los Rios include nurseries, farmer’s market produce stands, hand-crafted items, feed and horse tack and passive park and recreation uses, according to the staff report. In addition, Zoomars has a special permit to allow small-animal raising.

“The dinosaur structure is neither similar nor related to these permitted or conditional uses within the district and therefore, is not a permitted use or structure,” the staff report states.

It is that determination that Franks is appealing to the Planning Commission.

In a letter to the city, Franks said the area’s planning allows for structures and landscaping to “adapt and accommodate new uses.” That’s what Zoomars is doing.

“I do not believe its [the city’s planning code] writers could have foreseen the little farm on River Street becoming one of Orange County’s most treasured landmark attractions,” Franks wrote.

Juan and the associated “archeological digs” nearby are temporary and may be changed, Franks wrote. But they serve an important role in giving the farm animals a break from the constant attention of children.

She described the “Dinosaur Discovery Dig” area to be a passive learning activity which drives families and their spending dollars to town. In addition, it’s replacing a playground about the same height, width and area.

“It was never my intention to circumvent the city’s approval process, and I apologize for an undue uproar this may have caused,” Franks wrote.

When news of the controversy first broke, Franks wrote that she was able to collect 1,000 signatures in protest in the first two days alone. . 

The Planning Commission meets 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at , 32400 Paseo Adelanto in San Juan Capistrano.

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