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Jupiter pet lover plans shelter rebirth

By Alexandra Clough, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 21--Jupiter pet lover Kay-Lynette Roca vows to continue to her fight for animals and against certain people.

The ousted founder of Safe Harbor Animal Animal Sanctuary, now renamed Furry FriendsAdoption & Clinic, said she's planning a rebirth of her organization. It starts with the Safe Harbor name: She has incorporated it.

When Roca founded the rescue center in 1985, it was the Humane Society of Greater Jupiter Tequesta, doing business as Safe Harbor. But the Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary Inc. name remained unclaimed, until June 5, when Roca incorporated it.

Roca led Safe Harbor for nearly 30 years, raising the center's profile with its popular celebrity dog washes.

But she was ousted in January 2013. Vague allegations were lobbed against her but no claims were ever filed.

Roca laid low for the past 16 months, but returned to the public limelight last month with a lawsuit. She is suing her nemesis Carol Verdigi, a special events coordinator at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. As president of Safe Harbor's board, Roca claims, Verdigi orchestrated her firing and the shelter's demise. Roca is suing other Safe Harbor board members who voted to fire her. She is suing the sheriff's office and the Jupiter and Tequesta police departments.

She is also suing Herb Baum, a retired business executive who was once one of Safe Harbor's biggest benefactors. Last November, 10 months after Roca's ouster, the former president of the Dial Corp. and Campbell Soup took over as president of the shelter's newly constituted board and renamed it Furry Friends. The three board members involved in Roca's January 2013 firing left the board.

Roca's lawyer has declined to say how much he is seeking for Roca but has said her damages are in the millions.

As she battles to vindicate herself in court, Roca says she's still fighting to help animals. She's looking for a location on east Indiantown Road to create an animal hospital for spaying and neutering dogs and cats.

Keeping animal population down is a passion: "I built my foundation on free or low cost spay or neuter," she said. Safe Harbor also had a policy of not euthanizing unwanted pets.

Roca's goal is to raise six months to a year of rent on a location. The space will also contain a thrift store to offset expenses, and room for offices in the back.

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In addition, Roca said she's looking for land out west for a free-roaming sanctuary for animals. She said she doesn't believe in standard shelter kennels because the cages are too hard on the animals:

Despite the bruising of her ouster, Roca said she remains as committed as ever to animal welfare. Even while she was not running Safe Harbor, she continued to receive calls for help with animals by people who could no longer afford to care for them. "To be able to help an animal is an amazing feeling," she said.

A bridge to eateries

The center bridge to Palm Beach soon will be flanked by two new restaurants planned for West Palm Beach's most luxurious waterfront office towers.

One restaurant is being planned for the downstairs space of the Phillips Point office complex, at 777 South Flagler Drive, at Lakeview Avenue.

Word is there are plans to build a restaurant that will occupy offices formerly used by an accounting firm, and then spill out into the outdoor space, now occupied by a fountain facing Flagler Drive. A restaurant between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet could fit in the space, plus the outside seating. The windows facing east and north also will be opened up to allow patrons onto the patio.

A representative of Taylor & Mathis, which is handling restaurant leasing, could not be reached for comment by presstime.

The other new restaurant will go in the ground floor of the Class A waterfront office across the street, the Esperanté Corporate Center, at 222 Lakeview Avenue.

The goal is to create a free-standing restaurant that will be built in place of the "cube" outside the office tower.

That quirky cube has been home to many businesses through the years. Most recently, it was the West Palm Beach office of public relations firm Shamin Abas Public Relations. (Abas said she now leases space on Clematis Street.)

The restaurant will feature a large, wrap-around patio and outside bar, said Tom Prakas, a Boca Raton restaurant broker who is working to find a tenant for the space.

Prakas said up to 6,500 square feet could be carved out of the area, if a restaurant wanted a large patio and plenty of space.

The restaurant is expected to be an amenity for the building, which doesn't have a sit-down restaurant. Years ago, a downstairs space was home to The Mark.

Esperanté Corporate Center this year was sold to Crocker Partners of Boca Raton and Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC of Connecticut. Cornerstone is an indirect subsidiary of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, according to the company website.

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Staff writer Jane Musgrave contributed to this column.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law. Contact her at aclough@pbpost.com.

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(c)2014 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Visit The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) at www.palmbeachpost.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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