The Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke faces increasing financial burdens from a legal zoning battle with neighboring property owners.
In early 2018, the state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitation center applied for a special use permit to build a raptor cage intended to lessen the time needed to heal the birds and eliminate the center’s need to transfer the animals to other facilities for flying rehabilitation.
After Roanoke County approved the special use permit, several people living near the wildlife center including Stanley and Jane Seymour appealed the approval, arguing that the permit violated zoning laws. The neighbors also claimed the cage would cause traffic concerns for a private road that leads into the center and decrease the value of surrounding properties.
In August 2018, the state Board of Zoning Appeals dismissed the neighbors’ appeal. However, the Seymours appealed again and the board issued a new set of building requirements for the raptor cage in September. The Seymours have since filed lawsuits against the county in an attempt to halt construction.
According to The Roanoke Times, the wildlife center has faced approximately $21,000 in legal fees. The legal battle has also put the center at risk of having to return a $55,000 grant from Wells Fargo, the main source of funding for the cage, due to not using the grant within the required time period. For the time being, Wells Fargo has granted the center an extension on spending the grant, The Times reported.
The Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center operates on a $160,000 yearly budget with little wiggle room for legal expenses. Center owner Sabrina Garvin told The Roanoke Times that the ongoing legal costs could easily reach approximately $50,000, and the additional building requirements will cost approximately $25,000. The center is seeking donations to alleviate some of the costs and has set up a GoFundMe account. As of Feb. 12, the center has raised approximately $6,000 of its $50,000 goal. — By Sam Kepple