The Future of Hundreds of Cats
By TV 20's Robert Bradfield
It's a story TV20 has been following for almost two years - whether or not a High Springs couple should be allowed to house hundreds of cats on their property. And on Tuesday, Alachua County commissioners will take up the issue again.
A lawsuit was filed between Alachua County and the city of High Springs back in 2007. The county voted to allow for a special permit but the city of High Springs sued and the permit was revoked. Now, the couple is seeking to re-instate the permit and keep the cats on their property. "We think that we do a valuable community service to certain people," says Pennie Lefkowitz, who runs the sanctuary. But county staff sees it differently. They want many of the cats removed and in order for the Lefkowitz's to avoid a zoning violation, that means getting rid of more than one hundred.
"Our last couple of visits have been 280 cats but anything over ten would be considered a violation," says Chris Dawson with the Alachua County Planning Committee. So Pennie and Steve filed for another special exception, hoping this time their efforts pay off. "We understand that not all cats can be saved but these are, these are going to be saved."
The Lefkowitz's say the alternative could be worse, something they say they helped prevent by taking in the cats. Public documents reveal the Alachua County Planning Commission has recommended to deny the exception but the decision ultimately lies with county leaders. And Dawson says there could be consequences. "I would imagine if the Lefkowitz's petition was denied by the board of county commissioners that there would be some sort of code enforcement action."
That action could include fines or a plan to decrease the number of cats over a determined amount of time. The Lefkowitz's could apply for a "limited use" permit which could be obtained if they had 125 or fewer cats on their property and a special exception would not be needed.
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