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Town of Beech Mountain To Appeal Verdict Awarding Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary $361,000

By Jesse Wood

According to representatives of Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary, the Town of Beech Mountain has chosen to appeal the Watauga County Superior Court’s verdict on the due process claim that awarded the wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release center $361,000 in damages and accruing 8 percent interest.

Litigation between the Town of Beech Mountain and Genesis is now in its third 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. This was the beginning of litigation.

Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary also announced that John Korzen, associate professor of legal writing with Wake Forest School of Law, has agreed to take over the appeal filed by the Town of Beech Mountain against the wildlife organization for a “very nominal fee.”

If the nonprofit were to win this appeal, the Town of Beech Mountain would owe Genesis $450,000 plus interest.

Representatives of Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary said that the Town of Beech Mountain has already paid the law firm Eggers, Eggers, Eggers and Eggers more than $140,000, which doesn’t count court fees, the cost of appeal or fees to a Charlotte law firm working alongside Eggers.

Beech Mountain’s Town Manager Randy Fierabend and the town clerk didn’t respond to a records request for attorney fees associated with this lawsuit, and in the past, Fierabend and town attorney Four Eggers have declined to discuss the facts of the case with High Country Press.

In the N.C. Lawyers Weekly publication last December after the verdict was handed down, Charles Brady of Clement Law Office, which is one of the attorneys representing Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary was quoted as saying, “It is very puzzling about the ‘Why?’ question to us because of the value that Genesis presented and gave to the community.”

For prior stories on this lawsuit, click here.