Most speakers want Eagle County sanctuary saved | VailDaily.com
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Most speakers want Eagle County sanctuary saved

Scott Condon

Supporters of a parrot sanctuary in Emma urged Eagle County officials Thursday to approve a permanent nest for the organization that rescues and cares for the birds.

But a handful of foes from a neighboring subdivision claimed the birds are making their lives a living hell. They urged the Roaring Fork Planning Commission, a Eagle County agency, to send the parrots packing.

The Gabriel Foundation – which adopts and cares for abandoned and neglected parrots and tries to find them new homes – has been cited by both Eagle and Pitkin counties for zoning violations. Both counties claim the parrot sanctuary is an unpermitted use of the property located about two miles west of Basalt.

If Gabriel Foundation founder, president and CEO Julie Weiss Murad doesn’t receive a special-use permit from Eagle County, she would have to move her operation. Her land straddles Eagle and Pitkin counties. Most of her operation is in Eagle County.

Pitkin County has already sent the Gabriel Foundation packing once. It was forced off the former site of the Aspen Veterinary Clinic.

Land-use nuances aside, emotions are at the heart of the matter. Nearly all of the 20-or-so speakers ignored the rather dry government land-use details that are wrapped around the issue.

Speaker Linda Hayes called the Gabriel Foundation a feather in the cap of the community.

“Instead of trying to run her out we should be helping her make it bigger and better,” Hayes said.

About 15 audience members spoke in favor of the Gabriel Foundation. Some of them were employees or volunteers at the sanctuary. They touted it as one of just a few organizations in the world that provide a safe haven for parrots that need care. Even zoos look at what the foundation does as a model for caring for birds, a speaker claimed.

Speakers lauded Murad and her staff for their educational work. The foundation brings hundreds of school kids into its facility each year to teach them about the plight of parrots.

“If this doesn’t pass she’d be forced to leave the valley and I think that would be a tragedy,” said Scott Keating.

But Gregg Mackey indicated it is no honor living within earshot of the foundation’s aviary and outdoor cages. Mackey, president of the Double K Homeowners Association, a subdivision just the south of Murad’s property, claimed the noise can be unbearable at times.

“It’s a loud, shrieking noise that sends chills up and down your spine,” Mackey said.

Most homeowners in the Double K subdivision want Eagle County to deny approval for the parrots to stay put. “We have no problem with what Julie does. We just think it’s the wrong location,” Mackey said.

Dana Bond said the presence of an aviary has devalued her adjacent property. She claimed she cannot keep her house rented because of the noise. It is listed for sale but potential buyers back out when they hear the squawking.

The birds are taken to outside cages between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. when weather permits.

Bond claimed that even a veterinarian who checked out the property declined to close a deal when he learned what was next door.

“I can guarantee you it’s a loud and screaming noise,” Bond said.

She had the real estate agent listing her property also speak on devaluation. Kent Schuler of Aspen Real Estate Co. said the noise was so bad from the birds that it “outweighs even the noise from Highway 82.”

The planning commission received testimony but took no action. It scheduled a visit to the Gabriel Foundation facility next month to get a better understanding of the issues.


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