Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — WILSON — Carmen Presti’s bid to bring a primate sanctuary to the Town of Wilson received lots of attention in 2008. Wilson-Youngstown Road neighbors were strongly against. Fans of Charlie the Chimp and Presti’s neighbors in Niagara Falls voiced support.
The town board let the issue go away. Now, it’s back.
Presti has requested a special-use permit to construct a primate sanctuary and education facility on his property at 2850 Wilson-Youngstown Road and a Zoning Board public hearing is planned for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Town Hall.
The primate petition is No. 9 on the agenda, so the five members of the Zoning Board of Appeals may be in for a long night. “We’ll have to consider everyone,” Chairman Douglas Thompson said.
Presti’s exotic animals have been a favorite at area functions and his “Karate Chimp” has been photographed with Jay Leno, Chuck Norris, Billy Joel, Howie Mandel and Whoopie Goldberg. The monkey has been in movies.
But, six years ago, folks near Wilson-Youngstown Road didn’t want primates in their neighborhood. Residents expressed concern that the primates are dangerous, smelly, noisy and could depreciate property value.
The issue resurfaced when an alligator was found in a Wilson creek. Town Attorney Kyle Andrews was put to work on its first local law regarding special permits and variances for exotic animals. The local law was passed this year, meaning the town now has guidelines concerning nontraditional animals. That gave Presti parameters to work with, and the opportunity to apply for a variance.
The Planning Board passed Presti’s request along to the Zoning Board after its April 8 meeting. Zoning Board members received the request this week, according to Thompson. Presti’s request is detailed, several pages long and includes drawings.