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Zoomars Dinosaur

By Brian Park

San Juan Capistrano’s dinosaur replica, which has caused some local controversy and has garnered plenty of regional interest, might soon go the way of the rest of its kind, after the city delivered an ultimatum for its removal from Zoomars Petting Zoo in the Los Rios Historic District.

Zoomars owner Carolyn Franks received a notice from the city on Friday, June 29, outlining three options she could take with the 40-foot-long, 13-foot-high apatosaurus replica, which was installed at the zoo on June 13 and has since been given the nickname “Juan.”

Franks must remove the dinosaur by Sunday, July 15. If not, she can also appeal the decision to the Planning Commission, or for a $5,000 fee, Franks can submit a proposed amendment to the Los Rios Specific Plan, which sets guidelines for land use and development within the historic neighborhood.

Franks, who has consulted with Gil Jones, the former mayor of San Juan and the zoo’s previous owner, has decided to pursue the appeals process.

“Due to the positive feedback we have received from thousands of Orange County locals, San Juan residents, dinosaur enthusiasts everywhere and hundreds of children every day, we have decided to take the necessary measures to keep our dinosaur on the property,” Franks said in a statement.

If the appeal is approved and the dinosaur is granted a stay, Franks must still acquire a building permit to keep the installation at the site. The Planning Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 10.

In response to the city’s notice, the Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee, which is made up of a number of local residents with ties to San Juan’s historical families and has been the most vocal group to speak out against the dinosaur, issued a statement in praise of the city.

“We commend the city for stepping up and defending the historical integrity, the culture, the character and the families of Los Rios Street and all it represents,” wrote the committee’s president, Jerry Nieblas, whose own family predates Mission San Juan Capistrano.

The committee’s original complaint to the city focused on the dinosaur’s obstructive and unbefitting place in the Los Rios Historic District, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

“I find it offensive on some of the most sacred and cherished land in San Juan,” said Nieblas.

Franks has proposed the dinosaur as an educational tool that will teach children about San Juan’s prehistoric past.

“I think it’s important to talk about not just what happened 200 years ago but 200 million years ago,” Franks told the City Council on Tuesday, June 19.

Franks, who is set to become the president of the San Juan Chamber of Commerce in July 2013, also told the council that the dinosaur is a necessary step in evolving her business.

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