After a five year fight, a North Carolina wildlife sanctuary has won the right to return to its home and also recover more than 200-thousand dollars in damages from the town it calls home. For more than 11 years, Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary rescued and rehabilitated wild animals in Beech Mountain. The center also became a tourist attraction, until the Town Council voted to change some town rules, a move that placed Genesis in violation of its 30 year lease.
Susan Halliburton, a spokesperson for Genesis, says despite the court victory, the sanctuary continues to be in a tough spot, “We can go back on the land, we still have the lease. How it’s going to play out with working? Obviously, they don’t want us there. They want the property back, is what they want.”
Calls to attorneys representing Beech Mountain were not returned. Though challenged by town leadership, the lease was ruled valid by a judge last year. Beech Mountain is expected to appeal the jury’s unanimous decision in Watauga County Superior Court.
Halliburton says rebuilding isn’t as simple as one might assume, and adds that it includes rebuilding their staff and volunteer base, “We were forced to tear down the habitats – and we’re not just talking cages here. We’re talking foundations; double-wiring that bears can’t get in to animals or the birds.”
Genesis leased a little less than an acre on Buckeye Lake in 1999 for a dollar, with the agreement of the Town Council.