Debate over bird sanctuary pits good cause vs. bad caws
Fighting for the great cause of saving parrots, macaws and other birds may not be enough to save the Gabriel Foundation from getting knocked from its perch in Emma.The Eagle County commissioners didn’t take formal action yesterday on the foundation’s application to legalize its facility at 2101 Emma Road. But they indicated they were concerned about some critical issues in the unusual land-use fight.”I find particularly disturbing the approach of let’s build first and ask permission later,” said commission chairman Tom Stone.Commissioner Arn Menconi said he also needed a “deeper understanding” of what appears to be a pattern of behavior by the foundation.The Gabriel Foundation takes care of abandoned birds and, when possible, tries to match them with new owners. Founder Julie Murad operated the sanctuary at a veterinary clinic in Old Snowmass until she was shooed away by Pitkin County in the late 1990s.Murad moved the operation to property she purchased in Emma in 1999 but by June 2003 was again cited for zoning violations by both Pitkin and Eagle counties. Her property is divided by the county line.Pitkin County officials have repeatedly told her the sanctuary isn’t compatible with the zoning. But the bulk of the compound is located in Eagle County, so Murad is seeking a special-use permit to legalize what’s already operating there. She wants to build a new 4,800-square-foot aviary along with outdoor cages where the birds can exercise and soak in the sun.County hearings have pitted supporters of the sanctuary’s good cause against neighbors who criticize the sanctuary’s bad caws.The supporters certainly have the numbers. Eagle County planner Cliff Simonton told the county commissioners in a hearing yesterday that he’s received roughly 100 e-mails or letters in support of the sanctuary and only one against. Supporters also showed up in force at the public hearing.”It’s such an honor to have people doing good work for the world,” said Basalt resident Mary Goodrich.”It’s not going to be the death of the foundation whether you approve this or not,” said Coral Dillon, an employee of the foundation. But it would be a “big loss for the valley” if it was forced to relocate elsewhere, she said.While the supporters have the numbers, the critics might have the law on their side.Dana Scott, a neighboring property owner, claimed having the sanctuary next door has devalued her property by 50 percent, according to her real estate agent.”Yes, it’s a great foundation, but what about our rights?” she asked.Gregg Mackey, president of the Double K Ranches subdivision, across Emma Road from Murad’s property, said 12 of 19 homeowners there wanted him to speak out against the sanctuary because of the “unbelievable noise.”Stone noted that the planning staff determined the application has not demonstrated that the foundation’s facility is appropriate for its location and compatible with the character of the surrounding area.”To date, attempts by the applicant to ‘retrofit’ existing agricultural structures to accommodate this rather unique operation have obviously not worked in mitigating noise impacts from the property,” a planning staff memo said.Menconi said he wants to hear how Murad intended to make the operation compatible with the neighborhood when she moved to the Emma area.The commissioners postponed a decision until Tuesday, July 13, when they will convene in Eagle.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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