Fair Bluff considering big cat sanctuary for old Ford property

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FAIR BLUFF, NC (WWAY) — It’s an idea Fair Bluff leaders hope has some bite: turning the site of the old Ford dealership on Main Street into a home for lions and tigers.

Before a big cat sanctuary can come to Fair Bluff, the town must change its zoning ordinance. The town’s planning board recommended the change after a public hearing on March 20th.

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That’s where Shazir Haque, who wants to build the sanctuary, stepped into a proverbial lion’s den and quelled residents’ concerns.

“Discussion was mostly was safety and the perimeter between the fence and the wooded area, trees falling down and how the security was going to be implemented,” said Fair Bluff mayor Billy Hammond.

Jeff Axelberg is a Fair Bluff resident who had reservations about the sanctuary being so close to his home. He says that Haque addressed all his safety concerns.

Axelberg thinks the town should think outside the box to recover from Hurricane Matthew with an idea like this.

Hammond hopes the sanctuary will be a big attraction.

“We’re going through the process of recovering from Matthew, and it will hopefully bring tourism into town and more bucks to help the people that is here and get things started back and headed in the right direction,” Hammond said.

Fair Bluff town council will hold a public hearing and vote on the zoning change Tuesday. If the council approves the change, Haque would have to apply for a conditional use permit.

Haque says his team had explored locations for a sanctuary in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. He chose Fair Bluff because of the lack of existing economic development in Columbus County.

He’s sensed a good bit of enthusiasm from the town’s residents after their initial fears subsided.