County Commissioners Visit the Cats After Zoning Approval
As noted briefly in our last issue because it happened just as we went to press, in February the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners approved our application for rezoning to a Planned Development. The new zoning is a huge event for the sanctuary. First, it clears up any ambiguity there may have been about our right to have the sanctuary at its current location and conduct the necessary activities required to run it into perpetuity. Second, it grants approval, subject to certain conditions, to add buildings that would let us better care for the cats, provide an enhanced experience for visitors, expand our education program, and generate funds to support the cats.
This year long process could not have been affordable or have happened without the generous donation of time by professionals and supporters that deserve far more acknowledgement than we can give here. Among them were:
Alex Petrilak and Stan Geda who were heavily involved in the initial planning and advised along the way. Dick Callahan and Kevin Atkins of Biological Research Associates who advised on environmental issues. Bruce Kaschyk and Kevin Mineer of Genesis Group who donated many of the long hours it took to prepare the application, guide it through the process, and represent us at the hearings. Ted Taub of the law firm Schumaker, Loop & Kendrick, who took us on as a pro bono client, advising on the process and representing us advised along the way and then represented us at the County Commission Hearing. And last but by no means least are the over 200 supporters who either wrote letters on our behalf or took hours out of their busy schedules to attend the two hearings and show support for our cause. On behalf of the cats we thank all of you more than we can possibly convey in words!
Subsequent to the approval we have been honored by having three of the Commissioners tour the sanctuary on separate occasions to get better acquainted with the cause they have helped so much. On April 26 Commissioner Hagan arrived around feeding time and jumped right in. In the photo, he feeds China Doll as Shere Khan wonders why his plate is empty. When asked for his reaction after seeing for himself the work of the sanctuary, he said “In my opinion, Big Cat Rescue is one of the best kept secrets in Hillsborough County. It is such a unique attraction, and I am very impressed with and proud of the work they are doing.”
Commissioner Norman came by on May 4 with his wife Mearline. In the photo, the Commissioner poses with our largest lioness, Sarabi, who seems to be imitating him (or is it the other way around?). In a note after the visit, the Commissioner wrote “Big Cat Rescue is one the most unique places in Hillsborough County that children and families have an opportunity to visit. Right in the middle of our community you can visit a collection of some of the most beautiful and majestic animals in the world that can’t be matched by anyone, established by a family that has a love for animals. I highly recommend that everyone visit this wonderful place.”
And Commissioner Kathy Castor (now Congresswoman Castor) came out with her family as well.
We hope the remaining Commissioners will honor us with a visit sometime in the future. In the meantime, we thank them and all of those mentioned above for their wonderful support!
2012 Rezoning Win is 7-0
This will enable us to build a 50 bed dorm and add 6 acres of cage expansion! Thanks everyone!