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Redington Shores' denial clips Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary's wings

REDINGTON SHORES — Get out of town.

That is, in essence, what the Town Commission told the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary on Wednesday when it rejected the refuge's request to build a 20- by 40-foot flight cage for injured birds of prey.

The commission voted 4-1 on a motion proposed by Commissioner Lee Holmes that said, in part:

"The design, type of use and location of the Sanctuary does not enhance the town of Redington Shores. Basically, it is dirty, not attractive to passers-by and not a desirable attraction for our community."

Holmes also said the bird refuge has "outgrown its location in the town of Redington Shores and need(s) to find a larger area to continue their mission."

Ralph Heath, who founded the sanctuary in 1972, confirmed Friday that the nonprofit organization is considering doing just that — not by moving to another location, but rather by legally changing the name of the town where the sanctuary facilities are located.

"We've been loyal neighbors and friends of the environment for over 38 years," Heath said in a statement issued after the commission's action. "I am shocked and dismayed by the commissioners' denial."

Heath said the area where the sanctuary wanted to build the flight cage is where his first injured bird, a cormorant named Maynard, had lived after being rescued in the 1970s.

Heath said Friday the organization is consulting with its attorney about either possible legal action against Redington Shores, or shifting the northern legal boundary of Redington Shores so that the entire sanctuary property, which now straddles two towns, would lie completely within the Indian Shores municipal limits.

"If any high-powered attorney wants to take this on, we would appreciate it," said Heath.

Although the sanctuary originally was located in Redington Shores, it now uses 18328 Gulf Blvd. in Indian Shores as its mailing address.

The southern 20 percent of the sanctuary property, including the organization's administrative offices, is within the Redington Shores town limits. The rest of the property, including most of the aviary cages, is in Indian Shores.

"We have got to do something," said Michelle Simoneau, public relations manager for the sanctuary. "Redington Shores has a history of not cooperating with us."

She said the sanctuary cannot appeal the commission's decision. "The only remedy for us is to pursue legal action, and we are considering that."

Florida state law does allow a property to "de-annex" from a municipality and become unincorporated but does not appear to directly address switching from one town to another.

"I believe it would take a referendum of both Redington Shores and Indian Shores residents," Indian Shores Mayor Jim Lawrence said Friday, confirming that Simoneau has inquired about changing the boundaries.

Lawrence said he does not know whether the Indian Shores Town Council would even want to consider the change.

"I understand why Redington Shores took the action they did. We have had complaints from people in Indian Shores, as well, about the smell and inconvenience of the sanctuary operation. But they do a lot of good work there. I am a conservative with a heart. I believe in the environment and I am being pulled at both ends," Lawrence said.

Redington Shores Mayor Bert Adams said he has "jokingly" asked Lawrence if Indian Shores wanted to annex the sanctuary.

Adam insists he and other commissioners did not intend to imply by the vote Wednesday that they wanted the bird refuge to leave Redington Shores. But only Commissioner Tom Kapper voted in favor of the flight cage, which had previously been approved by the town's Planning and Zoning Board.

The commission also allowed Bonnie Stein, the only Planning and Zoning board member to vote to deny the flight cage, to speak officially Wednesday as the board's chairman and argue at length why the request should be denied.

"We are in no way against the Seabird Sanctuary. My job is to make sure the town codes are enforced," Adams said Friday.

He simultaneously suggested, however, that it would be "better" if the organization moved its hospital and recovery units "inland."

Redington Shores' denial clips Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary's wings 01/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 5:38pm]
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