Barton Hills Village, Michigan

shim image News

March 3, 2009



March 3, 2009

The special meeting of the Board of Trustees was called to order by President Laporte at 7:02 PM at the Village Hall.

ROLL CALL Present: Trustees Al-Awar, Boddie, Bogat, Butterwick, Langford, Laporte, Lindstrom and MacKrell. Absent: Trustee Wilkes.

Others attending: ZPA Perry, Supt. Esch, BHMC President Bultman, 22 residents and 2 neighbors.

Ms. Laporte welcomed those in attendance, noting the specific agenda of the meeting and the opportunity to raise other issues at the regular Trustees meeting to be held on March 9, 2009. She also explained that the Board would receive public comment, followed by discussion, which is the usual meeting format rather than dialogue between the public and the Trustees. Speakers were asked to identify themselves and adhere to a five-minute time limit to allow everyone opportunity to speak. Comment was received concerning the Deer Culling Program.


Speaker 1. I am new to the village and would like to know the facts about the program. Who has studied the deer population? Who decided that shooting should be done? When did this all begin? What is the liability of a homeowner in the case of an accident? How will the public be informed? What about walkers who don’t live in the village? Ms. Laporte responded that the history of the program goes back to 1996 and a meaningful recital of information could not be given at this time. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was very much involved, doing an initial deer count and making recommendations. (It was again stated that the format of the session is opportunity to give comment to the Board, not dialogue.)

Speaker 2. (provided written material) I distributed a letter to the residents stating concerns about errors in the BHV Deer Notice and difficulties with the program. I have received some calls objecting to my mention that the Trustees were more interested in shooting than in safety—I stand by that statement. I was on the Board of Trustees when the program began. Shooting was not to be done on private property—it was to be confined to the parks and fields. I’m referring to a communication sent by the Trustees to the BHMC Board, of which I am a member [which says] if enough positive responses are received, shooting will be done in the more populated areas of the village. (Addressing Road Administrator Al-Awar) What about shooting near the roads—cars, people walking? (Mr. Al-Awar responded that no specific mention was made of how close to the roads the shooters could be.) (Addressing Supt. Esch) Have there been any car accidents involving deer in BHV? (Mr. Esch responded no). I am very concerned about lawsuits if there is an accident. (Time up)

Speaker 3. I am very concerned about liability. Safety is not being considered by the hunters. I asked my insurance agent who advised that even if I did not give permission for hunting on my property I would be liable if there was an accident. She suggested I purchase a $1 million umbrella addition to my homeowner’s insurance! I am very much against this program. The safety zone has never been mentioned before. Residents have not been told about the legal issues involved.

Speaker 4. I have the same concerns. What if a shooter on my neighbor’s property misses and hits my child? I am 100% against this. No legal facts have been presented or clear definition of who carries liability.

Speaker 5. I am opposed to this program. Rochester Hills and Grand Haven have both stopped their programs. Rochester Hills stopped due to public outcry that no scientific basis had been established for the program. Grand Haven stopped after an expensive helicopter search indicated that culling was not effective. I don’t think BHV has done any research to support the effectiveness of the program. There is a real danger when the hunters are out at night. They won’t know where they are and won’t see the tape marking the properties. The past program is not an adequate guide for the present. Now that residents have to legally opt in, I don’t think the majority will do so. I don’t want any hunters near my property.

Speaker 6. I am speaking in support of the deer. I have read the BHV letter and the resident’s letter. My recollections match the resident’s about the program and I am surprised at the situation she mentioned about hunters on her property. I never gave permission for hunting on my land. I agree with the previous speaker, who is a very good lawyer and knows the legal issues. I don’t think we have a problem with the deer, and I’m not aware that we have Lyme disease here (if we do we shouldn’t be giving the meat to charity). Our posted speed limits are so low that no one need worry about a car/deer accident. The deer aren’t bad animals—they are beautiful and people often stop to watch them. I haven’t seen many deer in the past few years. It seems like it’s not a problem and there is a lot of potential liability with the program.

Speaker 7. (provided written material) I live on a farm on the north border of BHV near BHCC. I have lived there all my life and remember in the 1950’s when there were no deer at all. This program can’t succeed. The DNR says there are a million deer in southern Michigan. If you have three sides where there is no culling, and you have food, cover and water, of course the deer will move in. We hear high-powered rifle shots after dark—we don’t know who it is, but it’s disturbing. We had another incident, as explained in detail in the handout, where people were shooting at the end of my driveway, scaring my wife and son. When the sheriff came they asked about the car, and when questioned the shooters said they were shooting onto the golf course, which would be directly towards the clubhouse. Also, news of the program is widely spread, and violators come from other places to take advantage of the circumstances and shoot illegally. I have stopped some of them myself. I have had wounded deer come on my property. I hope you’ll read these printed comments with pictures. (Time up)

Speaker 8. I am opposed to the program. I consider shooting in residential areas very dangerous. The state law requires 450 feet (safety zone) and it seems like we are trying to get around this. The liability issues are a concern. I walk my dogs and have seen the shooters. They look like regular hunters—I expected something more professional like the military. They shoot after dark. I didn’t know this was going on until I came upon them—there is no system of notification. Hunting this time of year is cruel—the does are pregnant.

Speaker 9. Why are the deer being killed? Are they a danger to humans? What is the reason we are doing this? I walk my dogs after dark. How do the hunters know it’s me or my dog and not a deer? I can’t enjoy my two acres of property at night. If there is an accident, that will be a real problem.

Speaker 10. I am vehemently opposed to this program. My 11-year-old son goes out with our dog. We shouldn’t have to be afraid to be out in our own yard. This is not safe for children, and that is more important than the other reasons for doing this.

Speaker 11. I am also opposed. I enjoy the deer. My family, my 2 young children—we like to be outdoors. Even if we were informed about the hunters, I see no reason for this.

Speaker 12. I am speaking as a private resident, although as President of the BHMC board I attend the meetings of both BHV and BHMC boards and have heard more discussion than most of the residents. I support a program that limits the deer population based on scientific reports. There are other alternatives out there. Safety has to be top priority and BHV has said this. But the program seems to be just an outline—there are no details. I wrote a letter to the Trustees opposing the program as it stands because I think vital things are missing:

--Two different time frames have been mentioned—11 PM or 2 hours after sunset. Which is it?

--Do the hunters check in and out with someone in the village? Who is the back-up if that person is away? What information will be on the website? Will the web-poster be in contact with the hunters at all times—at the hours they will be here?

--The permission slip has no time limit. The last one apparently was good for ten years. There is no date.

--I mapped out the safety zones on a satellite map. There are very few (parcels) areas without (a) safety (zone) zones. Amended 3/9/09

--Will people be able to opt in after the program is started? How will I know if my neighbors have changed their mind and now allow hunting?

There are many details that need to be established before I can support this program.

Speaker 13. I have a wife, son, 5 dogs and twin girls on the way. I have a number of hunting stories. I have seen a hunter discharge a weapon on the golf course while I was walking there—he was obviously not in control of checking the area to make sure it was safe to fire. I walk my dogs by the maintenance buildings and have seen half a dozen hunters going out—not just one or two. How do we know that the program is well maintained and safe? I have chatted with the cullers. They were cruising the neighborhood, driving anywhere. They were not confined to specific areas. The neighbor’s relating of a hunter right next to her house—I don’t think BHV is in control. They are violating state law due to being closer than 450 feet without written permission. Based on past experience I don’t think BHV has the ability to run a safe program. It isn’t the property owner’s responsibility to mark their property—the hunters need to know where they can and can’t be. I’m not against culling—there are a lot of deer. It should be restricted to certain areas at certain times, like Mondays in the field from 4-8, not the whole village anytime.

Speaker 14. I am a hunter myself, and I am against this program because there are very few (safety zones) safe areas in BHV. Perhaps in designated areas at certain times if the neighbors all agree, but that would be hard to organize. The use of rifles is also a concern—that is even more unsafe. Amended 3/9/09

Ms. Laporte clarified that the DNR permit is specific that rifles or shotguns are required. The program does not use regular hunting rules, but has its own set of rules, which are posted on the website—the first page is the actual permit and the second page is the list of specific rules. Two previous speakers commented that they had read the permit on line and it did not answer their questions. It was also asked if culling would take place if a majority of residents did not want it. Ms. Laporte replied that the Trustees were elected to represent the residents in making decisions. If proper permission is given culling could occur, but if a resident doesn’t give permission, no shooting would be done on that property or within that safety zone. The Board wants to develop a program that the residents feel is safe.

Speaker 15. I also live on the northern border of BHV and help out on my neighbor’s farm on Stein Road. I am opposed to what’s going on. We’re getting people with rifles and spotlights at night—these aren’t hunters, they’re snipers. The time of year is also totally wrong. These guys aren’t good hunters.

Speaker 16. I am not against the culling program, but I do want severe limits on the time and location of shooting. There are a lot of deer and they do a lot of damage.

Speaker 17. I think this is all quite disturbing. I’m 16 years old, and have grown up hearing gunshots that wake me up at night. The reason for doing this program was stated that the deer will starve due to lack of food. That’s a bad reason. There is a huge population of starving people around the world, but we don’t murder them. There have not been any auto accidents involving deer in BHV. I’m really opposed.

Speaker 18. I remember before the program started, when I had 19 deer sleeping in my front yard and another 15 in the back yard. We had many more deer than we see now and it was really a problem. The DNR came and said we had way too many deer for the area to support and recommended the program. The culling has been effective and I think we should continue. Starvation is a cruel thing. The concerns I’ve heard tonight make me think the program needs to be well thought out and very specific, with set times and areas. The deer tend to follow the same paths, even after the culling begins, and the program can be tailored to those habits and be very effective.

Speaker 19. I’m not opposed to the culling program per se, but how effective has it been? What is the overall population now? Have we seen change? We should look at the data before continuing. Also, unless we have a fence around the village, how can we keep more deer from moving in? How effective can the program be if that’s the case? Safety is the first concern, but we also need a program that works.

Speaker 20. The letter stated that 12 years ago 88% approved of getting the permits. The resident questionnaire from 1999 seems to indicate a softening of that sentiment. There are no comments on that survey about deer problems. Time has gone by, and since the program requires written permission, we could look at a tally of permission over the 12 years. I think support is dropping.

Speaker 21. There have been no permission slips since the first one. It seems there has been a cover up of what has really been going on.

Ms. Laporte clarified that the permission given by the residents in 1997 was a simple “yes” in favor of the DNR-recommended plan for culling by professional shooters, or “no” not in favor. To say that it’s a cover up is not true. If things were not done properly in the past, that is not a reason to abandon the program if it’s beneficial. We are trying to do things correctly now. As speaker 18 related, those who have lived here a long time can see the difference. When the deer herd was at its peak there was serious damage to more than just plants.

There being no further speakers, the public comment section was concluded.

DEER CULLING PROGRAM Ms. Laporte addressed the public comment on a number of points:

--We are trying to start this program anew, doing everything in the right way. We don’t have people walking around the village shooting children. I have 9 grandchildren who play in my yard freely, and of course I do not want to see them, or anyone else, hurt.

--This is not a “hunting program”. These are not people doing something for sport, these are professional sharpshooters certified by the DNR. This is their job, and they understand the differences between culling and hunting.

--We are listening, and will respond to your concerns, but it doesn’t help to question our motives. We are not bad people doing a bad thing.

--We have received 36 written permission responses, and 6 communications from residents opposed to the program. If you didn’t reply, we assume you do not support the program. We didn’t ask for a general sentiment one way or the other, we asked specifically if you want shooters on your property. The forms didn’t include a “no” option because this is an opt-in program. Anyone who doesn’t send in a written permission form will not have hunting on their property. We were heavily criticized for suggesting an opt-out basis, so we have made it an opt-in program. It may be that those who want culling will not have enough neighbors who also support, and it won’t happen. We may not have enough positive responses to make the program worthwhile. The point of the question was opt-in; if you don’t give permission there will not be culling on your property or within the 450 foot safety zone. The form also included a “special request” section that could have been used for additional comment, as several responders did.

We are sorry there seems to be a lot of misinformation about the program. You’ve given us a lot of helpful direction, and we will respond to your concerns. Mr. Boddie left

Mrs. MacKrell stated that she had done a lot of work on this issue and did the best she could. It was difficult to get straight answers as the DNR rules from 10-12 years ago have changed and there is still disagreement among those officials as to what applies. This program has been going on up until last year when a couple of concerns led us to stop it. The main purpose is safety and we don’t want to see anyone hurt, ever, nor do we want to be inhumane to the deer. If it was a mistake to have the program opt-out, we have made it opt-in which raises the standard and you should be happy about that. We did not have all the information available to us until just last Friday. We have made some mistakes, but we are trying to correct them and do this right. There have been some misapprehensions. The on-line research circulated was for regular hunting, which is not what our permit is. This is a completely different activity with different rules. The original vote wasn’t a written permission, it was a yes/no vote for the program. The man in charge of the shooters all these years started with his group on the vacant lands. Residents came to him and asked him to shoot on their property—he eventually had about 20 people where he was invited. There was no plan from the beginning to shoot on private property.

Audience question—What about the parks, and ravines? When did the safety zones come in? Ms. Laporte responded that the village attorney called DNR about the safety zones and was told it was a gray area that we didn’t have to observe in our program. We chose to make that part of the program, and are very cognizant of the safety zones.

Audience question—There is definitely ambiguity about the liability question. Our son was bitten by a dog and the insurance company went after everyone. If there is an accident here it could be a huge problem. What about someone from outside the village who comes in and gets hurt because they don’t know about the program? Their insurance company will come after us all; I’m not willing to risk that. Ms. Laporte responded that both BHV and BHMC are covered by a $3 million insurance policy.

Mr. Al-Awar: I have been on the Board since the program began, and I went along with it to start because it was outside the residential areas. I don’t think the program is effective—the deer are still here. The DNR hasn’t given us recent numbers—it was 625 deer when we started and I don’t think that has changed. To keep the deer from starving is not a good reason. Unless we fence the village we can’t control the deer. It costs $200-250 to shoot and give the meat to the poor. I totally disagree with the program.

Audience question—Bow hunting seems safer. Is that an option? Mrs. MacKrell responded that bow hunting was not an option with the DNR. She made additional comments:

--The shooters shoot into ravines and down into the ground so bullets will not hit walls or buildings. The safety zone doesn’t mean no shooting can ever occur there, it means the person in the dwelling must give permission. There are hardly any areas in BHV where safety zones don’t overlap.

--The shooters are volunteers so this is not their only job. Only the person in charge makes his living supervising the volunteers. He is always in contact with all the members of his group and with Walter when they are in BHV.

--The hours allowed (1/2 hour before sunrise to 2 hours beyond sunset) seem too long. They should be shortened.

--The shooters always check in and out with Walter. We can post that on the website but that may give a false sense of security since specific information is always changing. It isn’t practical to plan the shooting days in advance so notification can be given as there are other factors such as the weather that effect the movement of the deer. A phone tree is also unreliable. We’re willing to work with residents to determine what is the most effective way to relay information.

--I’m sorry this has been so difficult to figure out. There have been a lot of reasons.

Appreciation was expressed to Mrs. MacKrell and the Trustees for their many hours of work and the information that has been given at this meeting.

Ms. Laporte stated that the person who has been doing the shooting has taken other work since this program has been delayed, and with the very short time until the permit expires on March 31, 2009it is unlikely that anyone else could be hired. However, planning can be done for the fall so the program is completely compliant with regulations and safety standards are well established. The Board appreciates the very good information from the public and wants to be responsive to those concerns.

Other Trustee comments:

--The program should be postponed until fall so there is enough time to work out all the details.

--We suspended the program a year ago and shouldn’t let this remain unsettled. We should give ourselves a deadline in which to come up with the best possible program, and see if it is good enough.

--While we can’t hold a referendum as such, we can certainly ask the residents for an advisory vote to see if there is community support for a revised program.

--We should determine if the residents even want us to spend any time pursuing this.

--We can’t get a useful answer from the residents if we don’t offer them a specific program to evaluate.

--The DNR rules are still changing. We need to be clear in exactly what the rules are and tell the residents clearly what we are talking about.

--I really appreciated the thoughtful remarks made by the public. I’m glad they came, and hope they’ll come to regular meetings too.

Motion Ms. Bogat moved that given the very good feed back given to the Trustees, a moratorium be declared concerning the Deer Culling Program, and that study continue until the Trustees can present a program to the residents that is safe and clearly understood. Mr. Al-Awar seconded; the motion carried unanimously.

Audience comments:

--We didn’t mean to offend anyone, or have our remarks taken as personal criticisms, but our priority is safety, especially for our children.

--I do remember the decimation caused by the deer in 1997. I don’t see that kind of damage now.

--It depends on where you look. The damage is still devastating in some areas.

--The trees by the water tower are a good example.

--The deer are beautiful, but they don’t nibble at foliage, they rip it to shreds.

Motion Mr. Butterwick moved that the Trustees’ actions made at the February 9, 2009 Board of Trustees meeting regarding the Deer Culling Program* be set aside as noncompliant. Mrs. MacKrell seconded; the motion carried. [“Motion Mr. Lindstrom moved that the Deer Management Program (thinning by shooting) be restarted as soon as possible. Mr. Wilkes seconded; the motion carried with Mr. Al-Awar and Mr. Boddie voting no. Further discussion ensued. Motion Mr. Butterwick moved that the culling of deer be permitted in three areas (field between California Avenue and the railroad tracks, North 40, Barton Green area), on any day between the hours of half an hour before sunrise to two hours after sunset, beginning as soon as necessary state permits are obtained; further that residents be notified and given time to respond (three possible responses—invite hunters to resident’s property, prohibit hunters on resident’s property, no response), after which culling of deer would be allowed on Fridays at specified locations within the Barton Hills Village limits. Mr. Boddie was authorized to negotiate costs for the program. Mr. Wilkes seconded; the motion carried with Mr. Al-Awar voting no.”]

AMENDMENT OF ORDINANCE NO. 2 While the discussion concerning discharge of a firearm is no longer pressing, it was agreed that Ordinance No. 2 contains several clauses that should be amended. Atty. Laidlaw will be asked to submit proposed amendments of the ordinance for the March 9, 2009 Trustees meeting.

REIMBURSEMENT FOR PLANNING SEMINAR It was agreed that requests such as this be evaluated on a case by case basis rather than having a general policy since there are many educational opportunities available. Mrs. MacKrell expressed interest in the seminar but is unable to go; Mr. Butterwick would like to and is able to attend. Motion Mrs. MacKrell moved that members of the Barton Hills Village Board of Trustees and the Barton Hills Village Planning Commission who wish to attend the “Basics of Planning and Zoning” seminar being held on March 11, 2009, sponsored by the Washtenaw County MSU Extension office, be reimbursed for the $50 registration fee due to the relevance of the seminar to the work of the Trustees and Planning Commissioners. Mr. Butterwick seconded; the motion carried.

Mrs. MacKrell moved the meeting be adjourned at 9:00 PM. Mr. Butterwick seconded; the motion carried.

Janice K. Esch, Deputy Clerk