Neighbors who share their driveway with a wildlife rehabilitation center petitioned last week for their lawsuit to be reconsidered by a judge, saying they want their day to present a case in Roanoke County Circuit Court.
“We were not even allowed to bring up our issues in front of the county,” said Adrian Maver. “That’s why we’re so angry.”
Four neighbors — Maver and his wife Blaine Creasey, as well as Stan and Jane Seymour — are appealing a previous court judgement against them and in favor of the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke, located at the end of a private drive off Coleman Road in residential Cave Spring.
“They never ruled on the facts of the case,” Maver said of the most recent judicial decision. “Are we not even allowed to bring up our issues in front of the court, in front of Roanoke County?”
Roanoke County Circuit Judge Charlie Dorsey ruled earlier in March that the neighbors have no standing to sue the center or the county for granting a special use permit allowing new construction at the center, a former residential property.
Maver and his neighbors disagree with the judicial assessment. He said if they don’t have standing, who would?
“The judge said that we don’t have standing,” Maver said. “They said we didn’t even have the right to bring up any issues, even though they drive across our property that we pay taxes on.”
Part of the neighbors’ qualm arises from drivers who Maver said are speeding down the gravel driveway to the wildlife center. That drive, located beyond where Coleman Road’s pavement ends, is privately owned and maintained by the suing neighbors.
“We’ve tried every little thing, because we don’t care about their operation,” Maver said. “We just care about their access across our property.”
Wildlife center officials said in an email they treated more than 2,500 patients last year. Maver said he has counted as many as 100 cars visiting the facility in a single day, each one using the gravel driveway intended for a single-family residence.
“How would any other Roanoke County taxpayer and property owner feel about people crossing their property 70, 80 or 100 times a day, speeding?” Maver said.
The neighbors said they took proactive measures installing signage and speed bumps to slow down traffic, among floating other, potentially more expensive efforts before and after a failed arbitration attempt.
“We pay for the taxes, and we pay for the upkeep,” Maver said of the gravel driveway. “That’s our property that we pay taxes on that we maintain, yet we can’t tell people how fast to go.”
Maver said he has been called nasty names, maligned and accused of crimes, and wildlife center officials said they received similar treatment. Based on past exchanges, neither party expressed trust in the other to act on good faith, or even in a respectful manner.
“We’re not animal haters by any means,” Maver said, noting the family’s ownership of goats and a horse farm. “We love animals just as much as everybody else.”
Neither side indicated a willingness to settle out of court, or even hold discussions face-to-face. Another attempt at formal mediation now, years since controversy arose, seems out of the question.
“It’s not just about us. It’s about any other Roanoke taxpayer that doesn’t even have the right to bring up their concerns to Roanoke County,” Maver said. “If Roanoke County ruled against us for whatever reason, I would say we had our day in court, we lost and we’ll deal with it.”
This legal appeal is the neighbors’ last chance to request their desired day in court against the wildlife center, county officials said.
“We just want them to go to a place where they have public access,” Maver said. “No other business in Roanoke County can operate at that level without road frontage, yet they can.”
For the wildlife center, the neighbors’ appeal was expected, and represents additional legal expenses, said SVWC Executive Director Sabrina Garvin.
“They just want us gone, is my opinion,” Garvin said.
And Garvin’s opinion certainly seems true.
“They have to leave,” Maver said. “The resolution is for the county to find a piece of property somewhere, anywhere.”