Parrot sanctuary survives … for now
A nationally-renowned sanctuary for parrots and other exotic birds came within a feather of being ordered out of the Roaring Fork Valley yesterday.Two of the three Eagle County Commissioners were preparing to vote against issuing a special permit that would have allowed the Gabriel Foundation to continue operating in Emma.Representatives of the foundation averted disaster by asking that the issue be tabled to allow them to get an independent assessment of whether their plan to reduce the noise coming from the squawking birds would be effective.The commissioners granted the reprieve but chairman Tom Stone and board member Michael Gallagher warned that noise was just one problem they had with the proposal. They warned they might not vote to issue the permit even if the noise is abated.Stone said he just didn’t think an exotic bird sanctuary was compatible with the Emma area. He noted that the noise emanating from the property while the birds were in outside cages was “undesirable and unacceptable” for a rural area. The screeching produced while the birds were allowed to exercise and soak in the sun outside went on at an annoying level from 8:40 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., according to a study.That May 2004 study concluded the sanctuary would best be located “in a heavy, industrial use area.”Stone noted that the Eagle County master plan, a guiding document for land uses, contemplates keeping the Emma area rural.”I don’t think this is Colorado rural in nature,” Stone said of the sanctuary.He wasn’t buying the argument of foundation land use consultant Terrell Knight that the sanctuary was like other agricultural uses in the area.”Cows don’t shriek that loudly,” said Stone.The foundation is having trouble finding a permanent place to roost. It operated alongside a veterinary clinic at Gerbazdale until Pitkin County booted it out for operating without a permit in 1998.Foundation founder Julie Murad bought land in Emma which skirts the Eagle-Pitkin county line and relocated the operation. Complaints from neighbors led to citations from Eagle County and forced Murad into the land use application process. The Gabriel Foundation serves a great cause through its efforts to offer parrots and other birds for adoption and provide sanctuary for those that aren’t wanted, Stone said. “I’m just not sure it’s the right place,” he added.Commissioner Arn Menconi disagreed. “I find it’s compatible regardless of whether there are chickens there or macaws or lovebirds,” Menconi said.But the numbers were against the foundation. Commissioner Michael Gallagher said he felt the proposed uses were “too intense” for only 1.5 acres of land. The foundation’s application proposes building a 4,800 square foot building and legalizing an existing structure.The foundation’s application proposes capping the number of birds at 250. Gallagher noted that noise levels were found to be unacceptable at a time when only 154 birds were on site. He strongly suggested that the foundation rethink the maximum number of birds it would allow on the property.Foundation attorney Hal Dishler indicated that would be acceptable. “It’s better to have 170 than zero,” he said.The commissioners rescheduled a hearing for Sept. 7 to give the foundation time for an analysis on its noise abatement plan, but Stone and Gallagher repeatedly warned the issue is bigger than noise alone.