The owner of a reptile rescue center in Kernersville is considering a new label for his business.
CCSB Reptile Rescue and Rehabilitation Center could expand and become the Kernersville Reptile Center and Zoo, if owner Chad Griffin goes forward with the idea. The center would attract tourists to Kernersville, he said.
Griffin said Thursday night that many people aren’t familiar with serpentariums, which are places where snakes are kept such as Griffin’s center.
“We decided to go with the name, ‘Kernersville Reptile Center and Zoo,’” he said. “We want people to understand that this is a newer facility based upon tourism and education.”
Griffin presented his business idea during the December meeting of the Kernersville Board of Aldermen. He told the aldermen that he is a herpetologist, someone who studies reptiles.
At a future meeting of the Kernersville board, Griffin plans a presentation on what the potential zoo would mean for the town, with figures showing the number of visitors his nonprofit center draws.
“Right now, we have an exhibit area with 50 animals,” Griffin said. “We would either expand by another 2,000 square feet or move to a bigger facility with more exhibits.”
Griffin told aldermen that people also come to his center to be trained in the handling, care and health of reptiles as well as how to keep them securely contained or capture loose animals.
Griffin moved his reptile center to Kernersville in May 2016 after operating at his home on Rickard Drive in eastern Winston-Salem for several years. That former site is off Reidsville Road in an area zoned for residential use.
After an alligator was found near the Rickard Drive site in the summer of 2015, neighbors called for the center to be removed from the residential area. Griffin was issued a notice of zoning violation for operating a kennel in a residential area and fined $200.
Griffin and Jeff Hatling, Kernersville’s director of community development, both said that Griffin doesn’t need to apply for rezoning if he changes his business’ name.
Griffin’s business occupies space in a shopping center off South Main Street that is zoned for retail establishments, including pet stores, Hatling said. Griffin’s center also is zoned to be used as an animal rescue site, Hatling said.
Griffin has licenses for wildlife rehabilitation and collection and permits for reptile, amphibian and endangered species possession through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The licenses allow his business to collect, rehabilitate and possess a limited number of reptiles, amphibians and endangered species, which include alligators and some venomous snakes.
State legislation leaves it to counties to pass local laws regulating exotic animals. Forsyth County has an ordinance that prohibits the possession of inherently dangerous animals, but it includes an exemption for wildlife rehabilitators with proper permits and scientific research facilities.
Ryan Kennemur, a spokesman for the N.C. Wildlife Commission, said that Griffin would not have to apply for a new license if he changes his business’ name. Griffin would have to change the name of his business on file with the commission, Kennemur said.
“Nothing is concrete,” Griffin said of his plans. “It may happen or it may not happen. We are trying to name the center for the town itself.”
Griffin said he would return to town leaders this spring to ask for money from occupancy tax funds in the 2018-19 budget year.
The state’s occupancy tax is paid by people who stay in hotels and motels, and the town of Kernersville gets a share of the money generated by the tax.
Griffin said he is uncertain how much money he plans to request from the town. About 10 volunteers and interns work at the center. Griffin also works with regional universities and community colleges to provide internships.
Town Manager Curtis Swisher said he’s also uncertain how much occupancy tax revenue the city would give Griffin if the plan moves forward.
“I’m thinking he will probably come back before the board in March (or) April when the other nonprofits do and request it at this point,” Swisher said in email. “I think his business has proven to be a plus for the town thus far. He does a lot of demonstrations and educational type things at schools, scouts meetings, etc.”
In the current budget, the board of aldermen approved spending $138,000 from the town’s occupancy tax fund, though none of that on Griffin’s business.
Griffin said his businesses attract 50 to 80 tourists daily.
“It is a really fun place in the Piedmont where people can learn and enjoy the center as well as have some fun,” Griffin said.