NC Court of Appeals Sides With Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary on Beech Mountain

Published Friday, May 13, 2016 at 5:55 pm

By Jesse Wood

In a 2-1 decision on May 10, the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 jury verdict and subsequent judge ruling ordering the Town of Beech Mountain to pay about $360,000 in damages to Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary is delighted that the North Carolina Court of Appeals has upheld the trial court’s judgment, the jury’s verdict and the dismissal of Town of Beech Mountain’s lawsuit against Genesis. The appeals court specifically noted that the Town received a trial free of prejudicial error,” according to a statement from Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Our battle may not be over, as the Town may choose to appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court. If that is the path chosen by the Beech Mountain Town Council, Genesis will continue to fight for what we know to be right, fair and just.”

Litigation between the Town of Beech Mountain and Genesis is now in its fourth year and began in September 2012, when the town filed a complaint in Watauga County Small Claims Court seeking the eviction of the sanctuary from town property.

In 1999, Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary entered into a 30-year lease agreement with the town to house the center on .84-acres of town property located near the Buckeye Lake. But in 2009, the Beech Mountain Town Council adopted the Buckeye Lake Protection Ordinance, which states that animals can’t be caged or housed within 200 feet of Buckeye Lake and its tributaries.

This was when the relationship began to sour.

Once this ordinance was adopted, Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary was in violation of town ordinances, and the Town of Beech Mountain sought to evict it from the property. Thus was the beginning of litigation with judgments going for and against both parties.

More background about the conflict can be found here.

Here is the majority court opinion from May 10:

“In conclusion, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Genesis on the Town’s breach of lease claim. Further, we hold that the trial court did not err in denying the Town’s motions for directed verdict and JNOV on Genesis’ substantive due process counterclaim. We also hold that the town has failed to demonstrate that the trial court erred in denying its motion for a new trial or amended verdict. Finally, we hold that trial court properly entered its declaratory judgments.”

Read the entire court opinion here: GenesisOpinion15-260-1

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