An 11-year fight over monkeys continues in Howard County.
On Thursday, the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals heard a complaint about a property on Old Frederick Road that houses 23 monkeys. The owner of the home, Colleen Layton, said her house is an animal sanctuary – not a pet shop or a zoo – and that local and federal officials inspect it at least once a year, the Howard County Times reported.
But complaining neighbors said the monkeys violate Howard County’s ban on exotic animals, draw large crowds to the home and that the monkeys make unusual noises.
They’re also concerned they could one day break free from the property and attack neighbors.
Layton said she has 27 security cameras, two locks on all the doors and three hinges on each gate, and if a monkey does get out, she’s got insurance that would cover up to $500,000 worth of damages, she told the Times.
Thursday’s hearing came, however, after Layton was told by the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals in 2004 to get rid of the animals, after they indeed found them to be in violation of the exotic animals ban.
After that ruling, county officials voted to amend the ban and required Layton to get state and federal licenses, effectively allowing her to keep the animals.
But neighbors continued their protests, saying the law wasn’t passed until after the Board’s decision. The Howard County Circuit Court and Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals later agreed, overturned the ruling, and said the monkeys had to go.
But in 2007, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled the zoning laws should be applied retroactively and sent the case right back to where it started – Howard County’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
After hearing more than three hours of testimony Thursday, the Board decided they would pick-up the case where they left off on Jan. 13.
Layton has lived on the property for 20 years and shares a driveway with her neighbor, who also happens to be her most outspoken protester.