ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — The Supreme Court of Virginia has delayed a special use permit for the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke, drawing out a legal battle that has been going on since 2018.

In March 2021, the Roanoke County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the wildlife center to use a special permit — which was issued by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors — to build a raptor facility for large birds of prey.

However, the Virginia Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal filed in the case against the wildlife center and the board of supervisors by two neighbors of the wildlife center, who are looking to stop the construction of the raptor facility.

By delaying the special use permit, not only will those neighbors have standing against the wildlife center and Roanoke County, but it also means the case will go to trial.

The Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke says it’s already spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and expects to pay more during litigation.

Since the wildlife center is one of only three wildlife veterinary hospitals in the Commonwealth, it argues that without the raptor rehabilitation facility, rescued birds of prey — like Bald eagles, Red-tailed hawks, and Great Horned owls — will need to be taken two hours away for rehabilitation and then brought back to be released into their original habitat, causing unnecessary stress on the birds and costing taxpayers money.