Legal battles continue between Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center and neighbors

By Alison Wickline - Reporter

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - A new legal battle is brewing in Roanoke County.

The county and the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center are now facing a lawsuit filed by neighbors over last month's decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals to dismiss a case against the wildlife center.

The nonprofit center is open seven days a week and  never charges fees for treating injured or orphaned wildlife.

"We're here to just take care of wildlife so this is just distracting for us," said Sabrina Garvin, executive director of the SWVA Wildlife Center. 

This filing comes after months of legal battles with neighbor Stan Seymour and others who want to shut the center down. In August, the Board of Zoning Appeals dismissed the case against the center, claiming the center's neighbors did not have proper grounds to sue. This new lawsuit argues that the neighbors do have standing because they are facing diminished property values, noise issues and increased traffic. Garvin said she is just ready for the back-and-forth to end. 

"I'm disheartened because: Will it ever end?" said Garvin. 

The lawsuit asks for a review and reversal of the board's decision and compensation from the county and wildlife center for the neighbors' legal fees. The wildlife center said it is in legal compliance with property regulations. Garvin said the community support has been the bright spot during the legal battles. 

"That has given me a lot of inspiration to keep moving forward. They've got my back so I'll keep moving forward with this and fighting as we need to," said Garvin. 

The neighbors who filed the suit did not return our requests for comment.

In a statement, Roanoke County said, "We are aware that the board was named as a party in the lawsuit. There is nothing further to provide at this time."

Plans are moving forward at the wildlife center to build the new raptor aviary pen. The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors will make the final decision on the plan on Tuesday. 
 

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