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Coconino County Supervisors approve a birds of prey tourist stop en route to Grand Canyon.

An argument over whether to allow two California entrepreneurs to open a roadside raptor tourist attraction near Valle ultimately hinged on fast food, souvenirs and a dispute over a few hundred feet.

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors approved the bird farm Tuesday night 4-1, with Supervisor Carl Taylor voting against.

Troy Morris and his partner, of Corona, Calif., plan to open Raptor Ranch along Highway 64 en route to the Grand Canyon sometime in the summer 2008.

This will be a business where eagles, hawks, falcons and owls will fly free for tourist demonstrations and injured birds can recuperate, with an educational mission.

"I feel that this does represent an opportunity for us to present a different aspect of ecotourism," Williams Councilman and physician Jim Wurgler said in support.

The site is a few hundred feet away from the commercial zone for Valle — or one-tenth of a mile from where it's supposed to be under the community's land use plan.

This has been a bone of contention between Morris and the attorney representing Lorraine and Bill Collins, who own a gas station down the road and challenged the raptor business.

Morris narrowed his menu, agreed to sell only raptor-related souvenirs and moved his proposed site about four miles closer to Valle.

"We've limited the menu very seriously… We're talking hot dogs and potato chips," Morris' attorney, Duane Weston, told the supervisors.

Determining whether the business was more of an educational facility or for-profit business with a restaurant and gifts was a point of contention.

So the full menu was read aloud for the supervisors.

Bill Collins has opted not to appeal in court. He and his wife have a month to reconsider.

An attoney hired by the Collinses questioned whether it would set a legal precedent of other businesses opening along the corridor to the Grand Canyon south of Tusayan and whether it was really educational.

"It's a little more than the Deer Farm. It's a little less than Sea World. But it's somewhere in between… It strikes me more as a zoo than it does any other kind of facility," Collins' attorney Bill Ring said.

The Raptor Ranch has been proposed as a destination for school field trips.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at ccole@azdailysun.com.

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