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Redington Shores zoning board member resigns over Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary ruling

REDINGTON SHORES — The flap over the future of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary continued here last week, as a member of the town's Planning and Zoning Board resigned in protest.

"I consider the sanctuary to be an exemplary part of our town's history and its work to be critical to the health of our area's birds of prey," Bob Phillips wrote in his resignation letter. "Obviously others on the Town Commission do not feel the same, a decision that I respect yet disagree with."

Phillips was one of three Planning and Zoning Board members to vote in favor of the sanctuary's variance request to build a flight cage for recovering hawks and other birds of prey.

The board's approval was overruled by the Town Commission earlier this month when it rejected a site plan for the cage.

The commission's vote followed a lengthy argument against the sanctuary proposal from Bonnie Stein, the only Planning and Zoning Board member to vote to deny the flight cage.

The commission action also incorporated a statement from Commissioner Lee Holmes describing the sanctuary as "dirty, not attractive to passers-by and not a desirable attraction for our community."

Phillips, who describes himself as "a bit of a tree hugger," had served on the Planning and Zoning Board since 2007.

He said he resigned "to raise awareness" of the town, which he believes should "celebrate" a 30-year-old institution.

"I have been kind of upset about the commission's decision. The sanctuary brings international visitors and income to our town. I am incredulous that we have these old men on the commission who are so set in their ways," Phillips said.

Phillips, 59, admits he plans to run for the commission next year "to bring some needed balance to the commission".

Michelle Simoneau, public relations manager for the facility, said Friday the Seabird Sanctuary is continuing to look at possible legal actions against the town.

Lack of a flight cage forces the Seabird Sanctuary to transport recovering birds of prey to other facilities outside the county to complete their recovery.

A barn owl rescued by boaters in the Gulf of Mexico is nearly recovered, she said, and could have benefited from the flight cage rejected by town officials.

Meanwhile, the commission plans to meet Wednesday with the Planning and Zoning Board to discuss possible changes to town codes affecting nonconforming properties, particularly on the west side of Gulf Boulevard.

Many of those properties, including the sanctuary, were built years before current building and zoning codes were enacted.

Variances to those codes have been granted in the past, but town attorney James Denhardt recently advised the board not to approve any increases to nonconforming structures.

Redington Shores zoning board member resigns over Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary ruling 01/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 6:42pm]
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