One year later: Dispute between local wildlife center, neighbors still unresolved


ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR News) – It’s been a year since a dispute between a local wildlife center and its neighbors was taken to the Roanoke County zoning board. The matter ended up in court and is still unresolved.

Some neighbors’ main concern is the center’s use of a private road which goes through their property.

Now, a year later there are three pending lawsuits and the center says the legal fees are stacking up.

They took to Facebook over the weekend with a post that read in part “Why are you suing us?”, along with an appeal for donations.

“I hate to keep asking for money for bills when we need to pay for our wildlife,” said Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center Executive Director Sabrina Garvin.

The Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center got a special use permit to build new cages last year from the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. Neighbors appealed the permit but it was denied. Shortly after, they filed two lawsuits in an effort to overturn the permit.

“The thing that concerns me, if the judge would rule they have standing, this affects not only us, it affects everyone else. If someone living beside you and says hey, ‘I’ve got a right to make you move that building in the back.’ This could be case law,” Garvin said.

Now, there are three open lawsuits involved in the dispute.

“We never knew there was going to be a third lawsuit so the legal fees are continuing to climb,” said Garvin.

The center depends on donations to pay its fees. Garvin says she’d rather spend money on the animals.

One of the neighbors involved in the lawsuit, who didn’t want to go on camera says this is not about the animals but about the amount of traffic on the private road used to get to the center. He says that road runs through part of his and others’ property.

“I think the biggest issue is the road. I have no answers for that. I do not. I mean, we’ve been using it. I don’t know what the answer is to that,” said Garvin.

One of the lawsuits has already been heard and a ruling could come down any day, according to Garvin. She says another one is scheduled to be heard in October and a date has not yet been set for the third. You can read them here on the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center’s website.

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