PUTNEY -- The embattled owner of Santa's Land has filed for bankruptcy, even as she continues to pursue approvals for improvements at the shuttered theme park.

Lillian E. Billewicz, who lists a Fair Haven address, has requested Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection and says her debts primarily are business debts, according to federal court documents.

The filing, dated July 11, is expected to have no bearing on Billewicz's hearing scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight in Putney. The town's Development Review Board is considering her request for permission to add a camping area with tent sites at Santa's Land, and the board does not consider a property owner's financial status.

Billewicz, 56, recently purchased the Route 5 theme park but has not reopened it.

Legal problems may have played a role in that, as both she and a caretaker at the property have pleaded not guilty to animal-cruelty charges related to the alleged malnutrition and mistreatment of animals at Santa's Land.

Officials have said numerous deer and a potbelly pig died at the park, while other animals were malnourished. The case is pending in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division, and Billewicz has been ordered to follow a written animal-care plan provided by a veterinarian.

Billewicz previously had received a Putney Development Review Board permit for operating the Igloo Restaurant at Santa's Land.

In her pending application, she requests conditional-use approval and site plan review for a camping area with space for 15 tents at Santa's Land. The Development Review Board is scheduled to visit Santa's Land for a site visit at 6:30 p.m. tonight; a 7 p.m. DRB hearing will follow at the Putney town office, though the board also is considering other projects and the Santa's Land request is not on the agenda until 8 p.m.

It is unclear what effect Billewicz's bankruptcy filing will have on the park's future. In court documents, she listed a range of one to 49 creditors, with her total assets estimated from $100,001 to $500,000 and her estimated liabilities listed as the same.

Billewicz requested, and was granted, permission to pay the $281 bankruptcy filing fee in four installments.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.