Some worried development would harm real-life owls at FAU

Environmentalists launch online petition

BOCA RATON, Fla - Talk of potential future development at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is prompting hundreds of people to petition the school online. Plans for potential development close to the Owl's football stadium just so happens to be right by FAU's own owl habitat.

Between the Boca Raton airport and the football stadium is home to several Burrowing Owls that some people believe would be in danger with future development.

"It's a good place just to come," said Jessica Huffman, a Biology major who recently graduated from the school. "If you're having a bad day, you can just come through the nature trail and you can see everything."

Huffman is behind a new online petition to keep FAU's nature preserve preserved. "We know we might not win, but it's good to bring awareness," she said.

According to FAU, potential plans for new buildings and dormitories in that space are far from coming to fruition. A spokesperson calls the timing of Huffman's petition "curious". "The University has made no decision to begin development of Phase II of Innovation Village, and no plans or proposals to do so exist at this time," said Lisa Metcalf.

This unique spot was actually designated an owl sanctuary back in 1971.

"You can still see the owls flying and they'll land on the top of the buildings because they are looking for their home that was once there," said recent FAU graduate Ariel Zeiger.

Some students see the owl habitat is in a prime development spot. The feel that the university's real-life mascot may not always call this place home. "I hope if they do tear it down, they do something else somewhere on campus," said FAU sophomore Sean McCabe.

The online petition had nearly 1,400 signatures on Thursday. To view the petition, click here.

Below is the full written statement from FAU Director of Media Relations Lisa Metcalf:

The timing of the petition is curious. It seems to be in opposition to one aspect of our master plan. The current update of the Boca Raton Campus Master Plan that includes potential housing it opposes was approved at a public meeting of the FAU Board of Trustees in 2009. That approval occurred after two public hearings had been held that year.  The location of the potential housing was identified at that time, and nothing has changed since then.

The University has made no decision to begin development of Phase II of Innovation Village, and no plans or proposals to do so exist at this time. Additionally, FAU’s master plan will come up for an update during the 2015-2016 academic year and students and other stakeholder groups will have opportunities to provide feedback on the master plan as part of the open update process.

The Master Plan simply provides an overview of campus development that is reasonably expected to occur within its time horizon, but it does not give specific approval for any given project, nor does it commit the University to doing every project on it.

If the university decides to proceed with an individual project identified on the Master Plan, an extensive development process is undertaken and further approvals of the individual project are necessary.