Why are we seeking a Conditional Use Permit (CUP)?
The aim is to present an unmatched wildlife experience, educate our youth and our community, and promote awareness on sustainable hunting as it relates to animal conservation.
Mr. Warren’s desire is to share this one-of-a-kind gallery with the community to provide a rare approach to understanding and appreciating wildlife. From all around the world, the gallery acknowledges more than 500 mammals and over 400 exotic birds.
This unprecedented experience includes such focal points as passenger pigeons from 1875 and pieces from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 Safari expedition, commissioned by the Smithsonian Museum. The Boone and Crockett Gallery pays tribute to America’s first conservation organization, founded by Theodore Roosevelt to balance human needs with wildlife needs, seeing deep value in preserving wildlands and wildlife.
How is this is an educational mission?
The essential part of the Conditional Use Permit request is to accomplish the mission to educate youth and our community. We know that experience gained from up-close interactions with wildlife will provide new perspectives and impart a wealth of information at one’s fingertips. The Gallery’s transition supports learning about animals that live their lives beyond the boundaries of our visitors’ experience; the world becomes a little smaller and the beauty of nature becomes more accessible.
The opportunity provided by is gallery supports the educational mission of school groups as well as extracurricular organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and 4-H. It is, in fact, to make this unique presentation of wildlife accessible to such groups that Mr. Warren is seeking its current permitting from the City of Austin.
How does this gallery contribute to wildlife conservation?
Today, wildlife conservation is exceedingly dependent upon hunting. While at first this may seem contradictory, sustainable hunting is in fact a vital aspect in ensuring that wildlife populations are sustainable for future generations. Preserving natural habitats, contributing to local economies, and growing wildlife populations are among the benefits that follow from legal hunting practices.
Hunting bans can actually speed up the extinction of many animals, as they negate the economic value of wildlife. With well-established incentives for managing a wildlife population as a natural resource, all stakeholders can approach a situation with a common understanding of that resource’s value.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was created for just this reason: to set regulations on the harvest of wildlife and to establish conservation organizations. Since its establishment in the 1860s, many animals have been reintroduced and now have populations on the rise. The income generated from hunting far exceeds that generated from other forms of ecotourism, or that provided by taxpayer-funded incentives, and is derived from fewer tourists. This has the dual outcome of reducing ecological impact and providing increased revenue for conservation initiatives.
Why is the conditional use permit needed?
Simply put, the permit will allow for broader access to the public, including enriched youth experience and educational endeavors about the facts and myths of animal conservation. If we continued to maintain the house at 1401 Bouldin Ave with a private gallery that is only open to others at times and under terms of Mr. Warren’s choosing, a conditional use permit would not be necessary. Nothing else about the development of the property requires this permit.
Mitigation of potential impact on the neighborhood?
A major example of Mr. Warren’s intention to work collaboratively and manage impacts on the neighborhood is its parking strategy. In response to the concerns raised by the neighborhood in 2015 and 2016 regarding parking concerns and the neighborhood previous expresses dislikes of the impact when the structure was previously a church, energy has gone into efforts to pursue a goal of accommodating all parking on-site, thus leaving neighborhood streets free and unburdened. Other choices regarding lighting, screening, compatibility, and signage have been made in response to neighborhood input. We would like to reiterate that our goal is to work with the neighborhood on these concerns.
What prevents this property from becoming just a party venue?
The most obvious answer is the fact that a great deal of money, time and energy has been invested in the creation of the Gallery, with all its potential benefits to the community, at this location. If the ultimate goal was just to make this property into an events center, this effort would not have been necessary. The mission of the gallery is to provide educational opportunities and the promotion of wildlife conservation. The property is not and will not be available for event rentals to private parties.
How would a nonprofit benefit the property?
As noted above, the transition to an educational institution for the benefit of the broader community; it is not unusual, and indeed customary, for such institutions to be organized as nonprofits.
Is the Gallery an attempt to avoid property taxes?
Given the amount of time, effort, and expense invested in the building of this house and the amount of funding needed to transition it to a full gallery space it’s clear that the ultimately marginal expense of property taxes is not a key factor in seeking the Conditional Use Permit. As a nonprofit institution dedicated to an educational mission, as such it would be entitled to the same consideration as other institutions with similar missions. Beyond that, there is no desire or effort to try to define the gallery as uniquely deserving of a tax exemption. A tax exemption is subject to a federal review and approval process, not a municipal City of Austin process. Such a status could be obtained with or without a Conditional Use Permit. The Conditional Use Permit and a tax exemption are not related, and no exemption status would be bestowed upon the property by the approval of the Conditional Use Permit.
How would Warren Wildlife Gallery respond to neighbors who feel its exhibits and mission are immoral or offensive?
We appreciate that Austin is a diverse community with many viewpoints and do not seek in any way to disparage those perspectives. However, the question before city officials (i.e., the Planning Commission) right now is whether the gallery qualifies as a “cultural service.” It is quite clear that a gallery with different subject matter could easily qualify for this designation with the full support of neighbors and stakeholders. To discriminate on content and viewpoint, as some would like to do, is a violation of the First Amendment that the city cannot abide.
How would Warren Wildlife Gallery respond to neighbors whose preference is for them to leave the neighborhood entirely?
The construction that’s been taking place on site is authorized and permitted. The only aspect of the operations that still remains to be decided is whether (via a conditional use permit for “cultural services”) it can be open to the public on a reservation only, no-fee basis. Nothing else is at stake here. While some may feel it’s possible to drive Mr. Warren and the house with a private gallery out of the neighborhood to accommodate their preferences, there is no legal basis for such action.