Zoofari plans moving ahead 8/16/2013

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 16, 2013

Zoofari plans moving ahead

By Rupert Howell

Panola County Land Use Commissioners approved a special exception that paves the way for “Zoofari”, a drive-through safari park, to open east of Como.

At their regular monthly meeting at the Sardis Courthouse the 10-member board approved a 10-year special exception that begins when a county bridge replacement leading to the proposed park is completed prior to its opening.

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Ricky Garrett had first approached commissioners about the 466 acre park at their June meeting when he sought approval to erect a souvenir/concession building, requiring a special exception in classification of the land from agricultural to commercial.

At the June meeting Garret’s plan included a 6.5 mile route winding through the proposed park acreage bordered by Rooks Road on the east and Tom Floyd Road on the north.

Garrett’s initial proposal included mostly African hoof stock such as gazelles, antelope, water buffalo and camels.

At Monday’s meeting Garret explained that large cat stock required more liability than he was comfortable with and predicted fewer large cat exhibits trending in the future.

He again explained that the industry is heavily regulated through the USDA as well as additional state regulations, stating he has to obtain the same permits as zoos.

Commissioners voted  unanimously to approve the special exception prior to Dean Harrison’s request for a special exception for her Backporch Restaurant in Pope.

The former location at Highway 51 and Pope-Water Valley Road was lost to fire, but Harrison quickly moved the location to a nearby vacant building north of the former location near Sayle Oil Company and across from Pope School.

Harrison told commissioners that she had arranged for additional parking next door  when that business closed for the evenings and that her business would operate from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. six days a week.

The commissioners unanimously approved Harrison’s special exception to continue operation of her restaurant at the new location.