By Janel Davis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The rabbits residing at a home-turned-rescue shelter in northeast Cobb County were given a short reprieve Tuesday while shelter operators and the county try to reach a compromise on zoning issues.
Mark and Edie Sayeg, rescue group volunteers and owners of the home along Shallowford Road, are seeking a temporary land use permit to continue operating out of the house zoned residential instead of moving to a commercially zoned area.
The County Commission voted Tuesday to continue the zoning hearing until next month.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearing before the County Commission, which has the final say on zoning issues, the county’s planning board recommended the rabbit rescue permit be denied. County planning staff noted the rescue facility’s full-time operation, car traffic from daily volunteers and a few complaints about multiple cars parked during the center’s board meetings.
The East Cobb Civic Association has opposed the rabbit rescue because the business is an “intense use” for a residential neighborhood, said association President Jill Flamm.
The rescue currently has one volunteer who lives at the home and is the round-the-clock rabbit caretaker. The rescue group, operated through volunteers, takes in abandoned rabbits from area shelters and adopts them out to permanent homes. The house contains 20 pens; there are a maximum of 25 rabbits at the facility at any given time, Edie Sayeg said.
Edie Sayeg, the rescue organizer and co-chapter manager of the House Rabbit Society North Georgia Chapter, said the rescue has the support of most of the residents in the neighborhood and has satisfied the planning commission’s concerns by holding its monthly board meetings in another location and handling more rescue visits through scheduled appointments.
On Tuesday, commissioners sought some compromise on the rescue house — which also sells rabbit food and other items to help subsidize the costs — to further conform the rescue’s operations to fit into residential guidelines. Commissioners recommended limiting the sales to those who are adopting, or eliminating the sales altogether.
“We’re trying to do what’s best for the rabbits,” said Sayeg, who purchased the home using her personal retirement funds. “We have shown that there is a real need for rabbit rescue in Georgia.”
Before Sayeg purchased the house and renovated it for the rabbit rescue, the home was a vacant foreclosure, she said. Sayeg bought the house in September, and the rabbit rescue was in full operation in March.
“The bottom line is if the [rescue] is removed and the property is unoccupied, with the state of the real estate market, it could remain that way for a long time,” said David Hunt, a 17-year homeowner in the neighborhood and rescue supporter. “The letter of the law and the good of the community are not always the same.”