Big Cat Rescue Gets Bigger
His dying words were, “Don’t sell this land for less than a million dollars.” This former owner of the 10 acres next to Big Cat Rescue wasn’t a land barron, but he could see the rising value in his land and when he left it to his wife and daughter he wanted them to hang on to it until they could sell it and be set for life. They did hold on, for many years, right to the peak of the real estate bubble when their parcel was under contract for more than a million dollars, as part of a 400+ condo development. When the real estate market crashed, it took with it their expectations of being able to sell it for enough to retire.
We have been trying to buy this ten acre tract since the late 1980’s because it is nestled right in the middle of our own L shaped 45 acres. As real estate values grew we saw it go far beyond our budget in the early 2000s and even after the market tanked, we still were hundreds of thousands of dollars apart in our negotiations. They wanted a million, then 750k, then 600k and we were maxed out in our offer of 250k.
Even in today’s market the tax assessor’s office values the property at 347k but to us it is a buffer against development and not likely to generate much, if any income, for a long while. We weren’t trying to beat them up over the price; we just couldn’t justify spending much more. The negotiations kicked into high gear in August and Howard Baskin kept the dialogue open with our neighbors. By December we had reached an agreement of $255,000 and we closed the deal on the last day of 2010.
This expansion was made possible by a rather exceptional donor and the combined efforts of all of our staff and volunteers. In CFO Howard Baskin’s post to the Big Cat Rescue Intranet blog he commended them saying, “As the year ends I would just like to personally thank all of the volunteers and staff for making this by far the best financial year in the history of the sanctuary. We sometimes forget that every aspect of what we do affects our donations. Seeing clean cages, healthy cats, friendly faces, and cared for grounds all goes into the impression that leads to visitors viewing us positively and donating.
Preliminary financial numbers have to wait until we reconcile the checking account in late January, but I can tell you for sure that this was our best year ever. We will be able to add to our reserves and in 2011 we can continue to build the wall that protects the cats. I would also like to thank everyone who was involved in handling the crush of visitors we had this week, getting all the cat care done despite the crowds, and those who spent long hours helping with the gift shop inventory.
We end the year on a wonderful separate note. Today we closed on the purchase of the ten acre parcel that runs from Freckles down to the party house wall. This is part of the land that only a few years ago was under contract to become town homes at 9 units per acre that would most likely have been looking down at the cats. This purchase gives us a permanent buffer that will keep development away from the “outback” and the area behind Freckles and south of the office house. We could not wait until midnight – Carole and I just had our champagne (Barefoot Brut of course) to celebrate and hope you will join us in being thrilled at the protection this purchase provides!
Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve – see you all in 2011!”