Skip to main content
A1 A1
Inverness council to take first step approving new affordable apartments for seniors

A Fort Lauderdale development company is taking its first step to build its second apartment project in Inverness, this time for a 55-plus community.

“Following the successful completion of the Colonnade Apartments affordable housing project, the same developer, Green Mills Group, is proposing another affordable housing project at 1940 Forest Drive,” wrote Inverness City Manager Eric Williams to his council as part of next week’s council meeting agenda. “The initial concept featured a four-story, 110-unit family apartment complex, but after neighborhood outreach and community input changes were made.”

“The height was lowered, the number of units reduced and most importantly a change from family to a 55-plus senior housing concept,” he said. “The current application is for a three-story, 100-unit, age-restricted apartment complex.”

To do that the developer is requesting that the land use for the 6.5-acre site be changed from low density residential to high density residential. This would be the first of two votes by the city council on the request.

The developer will also return in June for a separate zoning change to allow for the project, called Longwood Gardens.

The city council has worked to attract affordable housing in the city as home properties and rents have skyrocketed.

The council will meet 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, at city hall, 212 W. Main St., Inverness.

Also in city business the council will consider a resolution objecting to four potential plans to extend the Florida Turnpike north from Wildwood.

Turnpike officials earlier this month presented the agency’s plans and timetable discussing potential routes with the public and elected officials.

The council members directed Williams to write a resolution opposing the plans and allow the council members to review it.

The proposed resolution reads, in part:

“The city of Inverness City Council finds that it is in the best interests of the city and the public to recommend that a “No Build” option for the Northern Turnpike Extension be adopted and implemented based upon current information.

“The city of Inverness City Council would respectfully request that the current study of a Northern Turnpike Extension give further consideration and resources to alternatives such as the expansion of the Interstate 75 corridor.

“The city of Inverness City Council will continue to monitor and respond to updated information about the proposal, including, but not limited to, the Project Development and Environment Study.”

Also in city business, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office will give its quarterly Inverness crime and traffic report to the council.

Nonprofit Spotlight: Ziggy’s Haven Bird Sanctuary

Editor’s note: Every community depends on the resources and support that nonprofit agencies provide people, whether physical, material or emotional.

The Chronicle’s ongoing series, Nonprofit Spotlight, profiles the nonprofit agencies in Citrus County that exist to help make life better for us all.

To have your nonprofit organization considered for a spotlight, here’s the link to an online form you can fill out:

https://www.chronicle nonprofit_spotlight

It’s sometimes quite noisy at Ziggy’s Haven Bird Sanctuary in Inverness.

Lots of chirping, whistling and clicking of tongues, squawks and screeches, even an occasional hiss.

But it’s music to Wendy Waas’ ears.

Waas is the founder and president of Ziggy’s Haven Bird Sanctuary, started in 2003 by Waas’ now deceased 15-year-old daughter, Tanya, after her beloved umbrella cockatoo, Ziggy, died from a digestive blockage.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

These sun conures appear to be cuddling in their enclosure at Ziggy’s Haven in Inverness.

What started as a small, home-based rescue has grown into a large-scale sanctuary and adoption facility.

“After doing some research, our daughter thought we should do parrot rescue and rehoming,” Waas said. “Parrots are flock animals and really are a specialized animal. It takes a great deal of education to provide a home for an animal that will most likely outlive you.”

Now, in loving memory of her daughter, Tanya, Waas is carrying on the fostering work Tanya loved so much.

Ziggy’s Haven takes in displaced parrots from animal hoarding situations, owner surrenders and facility transfers. Ziggy’s provides a permanent home for parrots that would not do well in a home environment. Friendlier birds are placed in the adoption center while they wait for the right family.

How many people does it take to run Ziggy’s?

Kimberlee Phelps is the Executive Director and handles the day to day operations of the organization and the Board of Directors is in charge and meets weekly to go over daily operations.

Ziggy’s relies on its approximately 20 volunteers – and they always need more volunteers, especially on Thursdays and Fridays. Those interested in volunteering can stop by the sanctuary anytime Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. to fill out an application, take a tour and see if volunteering at a parrot shelter is right for them.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

Twelve-year-old Lexi Maza feeds two parrots inside an enclosure at Ziggy's Haven in Inverness. The birds are being fed sunflower seeds.

Who does Ziggy’s Haven serve?

“We serve the animals,” Wendy Waas said. “The animals are our first priority. Making sure they have adequate housing, appropriate diet and nutrition, enrichment and veterinary care. We also do that by helping to keep animals in the home whenever possible.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

These macaws wait for a treat Thursday, May 12, at Ziggy's Haven Parrot Sanctuary.

“Sometimes life happens and many people don’t realize that they have options other than surrendering their bird to a rescue. We help by providing bird food and/or veterinary assistance to those that are going through tough times, as well as long and short term boarding. Many of the people who board their parrots with us had originally called to surrender them because they didn’t realize they could board them for an extended period of time. Our first priority is helping to keep the bird in the home whenever possible,” she said.

How is Ziggy’s Haven funded?

The annual operating budget is $80,000, but that doesn’t include much-needed improvements to the property and construction of habitats for the parrots and animals that call Ziggy’s Haven home.

Funding comes from public donations through adoption and surrender donations, parrot boarding and grooming, on- and off-site fundraisers, tours and direct donations.

How has the pandemic affected Ziggy’s Haven?

“We lost several volunteers when the pandemic first hit,” Waas said. “Also, donations declined as people were not working. Things started getting better last year, but now with the current economy donations are starting to backslide again. People are having to choose to make a donation or put gas in their cars, pay for groceries etc. Things are getting tough again, and I don’t think it’s related to the pandemic.”

What keeps everyone at Ziggy’s motivated?

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

This macaw uses its powerful beak and feet to crack open an almond given to the bird Thursday, May 12.

First and foremost, it’s the 300-plus animals that call Ziggy’s Haven home, Waas said. It’s the love for the animals, helping people keep their birds whenever possible, matching “good birds with great people” to find the perfect home for adoptable birds, teaching younger volunteers to be responsible pet owners, making a positive difference in the lives of the birds and the lives of the people who stop in to visit the sanctuary.

“So many things keep us motivated,” Waas said, “but I think mostly it’s the love of the animals.”

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

Ziggy's Haven Parrot Sanctuary also has an indoor facility that is full of colorful parrots.

How can the community help Ziggy’s Haven with their mission to help displaced birds?

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

Ziggy's Haven co-director Kim Phelps receives a kiss from a conure at the parrot sanctuary in Inverness.

The biggest impact anyone can make is by becoming a monthly donor – $20 a month makes a big difference, Waas said. Other needs include: Volunteering for a few hours a week. Adopting a parrot. Stopping by and taking a tour. Telling friends about Ziggy’s Haven. Becoming a foster for a special needs parrot.

What difference does Ziggy’s Haven want to make in Citrus County?

“One of the biggest differences we want to make is through education,” Waas said. “We firmly believe that our young people are the future. Our Saturdays are run 100 percent by our local youth ranging in ages from 12 to 17, with adult supervision, of course. We are teaching them how to be responsible pet owners and that having a pet is a commitment.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

These two conures, a cherry-headed and miter, are given a treat Thursday, May 12, at Ziggy's Haven Parrot Rescue in Inverness. The facility's co-director Kim Phelps lets the birds ride on her shoulder.

“We hope that in the future fewer animals will be placed in shelters and more animals will remain in the home. We need to teach society that animals are not disposable and that giving up your pets should be a last resort,” Waas said.

Future plans/dreams are to continue making necessary improvements to turn Ziggy’s Haven into an educational zoo-type facility that would bring in visitors from all over. This would bring much needed funding to the organization as well as bring in tourist dollars to local establishments.

“And, of course, we want to make a difference to those who need it most,” Waas said, “our seniors and disabled people who are having a hard time making ends meet. If we can provide bird food or help with cage cleaning and still keep that parrot in the home it knows and loves, it’s a win/win for both that bird and its owner.”


Ziggy’s Haven Bird Sanctuary is at 84 N. Florida Ave., Inverness.

Phone: 352-419-4086

Email: info@ziggyshaven .com

Website: www.ziggys


Postscript: Mary Dawson, ‘Life is good’

If you wanted to know Mary Dawson’s philosophy of life, all you had to do was read the message on the T-shirt or sweatshirt she was wearing: “Life is Good.”

Despite the years of battling the cancer that eventually took her life, Mary Dawson thoroughly believed that life was, indeed, good.

Even when she was being chased by a shark.

As the story goes, she and her husband, Tom, were in the Keys and going out snorkeling.



{standaloneHead}Mary Dawson{/standaloneHead}


The dive boat guide told everyone on board, “Watch out, there’s a shark named Sam out there, but don’t worry, he won’t hurt you.”

They all got into the water and as everyone else went one direction, Tom told Mary, “Let’s go this way.”

“And then here comes Sam,” Tom Dawson said. “So, I tell Mary just to get against this rock and don’t worry about it. Instead, she (races) to the boat. I’m still there with Sam, and the guy on the boat helps her up the ladder – and her bathing suit top comes off!”

“She loved telling that story,” said Tika Policelli, the Dawson’s only child. “She told great stories.”

Mary Dawson was creative and stylish, a tell-it-like-it-is straight talker, hospitable, kind and compassionate, a fervent supporter of conservative causes and politicians.

She loved the color red and loved Christmas. She loved her animals.

As a child growing up in Whigham, Georgia, a rural town about 25 miles from Tallahassee, she lost both of her parents by the time she was 14. When she was 13, her father died from cancer, and when Mary was 14 her mother died in a car accident.

After that, she and her two brothers and younger sister moved to Bradenton, Florida, to live with their grandmother.

“That’s where we met,” Tom Dawson said. “We both rode the same bus to school. We went to Manatee High School, and I asked her out in 11th grade while we were on the bus. We graduated in 1962 and got married in 1964.”

After high school, Tom attended classes at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and later at the University of Houston College of Optometry in Texas.

“She worked full-time doing accounting work to support me through school,” Dawson said. “In 1971 when I graduated, the College of Optometry gave her and all the wives a ‘PHT degree,’ Putting Hubby Through college. That went on the wall of our (optometry) office.”

After graduation, the couple moved to Crystal River.

“All the years we traveled from FSU and also Houston to Bradenton, we kept coming through Crystal River, traveling U.S. 19,” Dawson said.

Dr. Forrest, the optometrist in Crystal River at that time, was about ready to retire. However, Dawson couldn’t afford to buy the practice, so Forrest let Dawson work with him at the office until he could buy the practice six months later.

Also at that time, then-Florida Power had just brought in a large number of employees, and when the Dawsons arrived, there was no place for them to live.

They met a man who knew of a place at Montezuma Waters on a canal off Crystal River, a just-built doublewide mobile home.

“We loved it there,” Dawson said. “We were surrounded by wildlife, alligators and bobcats.”

Mary had gotten a job at the telephone company taking complaint calls, and then after about six months she went to work running her husband’s optometry office and eventually became a board-certified optician.

But her favorite job was mom to daughter Tika.

“She was so creative, an amazing cook – she made the BEST blackberry cobbler,” Tika Policelli said. “She loved holidays and made everything so beautiful, like something out of a Southern Living magazine.

“We played tennis together, went to lunch together at Rocco’s or Amy’s On the Avenue or the Highlander Café. We’d go shopping in Tampa, and we always went to Rogers Christmas House in Brooksville,” she said. “She taught me so much, especially to speak my mind. She was very straightforward.”

Cancer couldn’t stop her, until it did

January 2012, Mary Dawson found a lump and got her first cancer diagnosis.

“She went through surgery, six cycles of chemo and radiation,” Tom Dawson said. “On the last day of radiation, we got into our motorhome and headed to the Rocky Mountains and spent months traveling.”

The couple eventually traveled to all 48 U.S. contiguous states.

“We lived vicariously through her, through the stories Mary told,” said friend Earline Stephens. “She would tell such great stories about taking the wrong road or needing a chainsaw to get through. ... She was a great hostess. When you came over to her house she’d always say, ‘Let me get you a glass of wine’ and offer you snacks.

“She was very classy, always stylish. She wore caps all the time, and they would always be cute, with bling, and she always had a smile on her face,” Stephens said. “She was an overcomer. If there was an obstacle, she wouldn’t let anything stop her.”

“Even on her worst days, you’d never know it,” said Earline Stephens’ husband, Scott. “She had a great sense of humor.”

Mary Dawson made it to the five-year “cancer-free” marker, and then it returned with a vengeance, this time as ovarian cancer.

“We were in Yellowstone, and she experienced an excruciating pain,” Tom Dawson said. “We went to the ER, and they found a tumor ... it was a three-day trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York.”

She loved hiking, and Yellowstone was the last place she hiked.

“But she got to do it,” Dawson said.

At her request, Mary Dawson didn’t want a fuss made over her death, no memorial service, just a short obituary letting people know she had a good life.

She died April 27 at age 78.

Review board seeking new members

The Citrus County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is seeking applications for the Code Review and Appeals Board (CRAB). They are seeking four qualified regular members and one alternate position to fill four-year terms that will expire on Jan. 31, 2026.

CRAB meets as needed. It reviews any locally proposed technical amendments to building standards or regulations and makes recommendations to the BOCC. It also hears appeals of code interpretations and makes decisions on variations and modifications concerning technical codes and standards.

Applications can be accessed online at: Completed applications should be sent to Citrus County Administration, 3600 W. Sovereign Path, Suite 267, Lecanto, FL 34461.