ES Council votes to lower boom on big birds

Friday, September 29, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Some Eureka Springs part-time residents, more specifically members of the Aegypiidae and Cathartidae families -- commonly called vultures -- are finally going to be asked to leave their adopted neighborhood on Fuller Street.

After almost one year of urging from residents living along adjacent Linwood and Ridgeway streets, members of the City Council voted unanimously Monday night to suspend provisions of the city's noise ordinance for two weeks to allow the use of sonic cannons to try to convince the raptors to choose another, hopefully less populated, spot for their winter roosting place.

The large scavengers have for several years selected a tall cottonwood tree along Fuller Street as their roosting place during the period roughly from October through April. This has resulted in some of their human neighbors voicing disgust at the birds' defecation and regurgitation on nearby automobiles, decks, yards and houses.

Debbie Clark, a resident on Linwood, told the council that she thought the federally-protected species were great to watch but not have as neighbors. She said that her pet dogs and cats often tracked vulture waste into her house, complicating her house cleaning duties. "I want something done to help them find a new home," Clarke said.

A number of residents of the two streets, all of whom had signed a petition asking the city to take action, addressed the Council. Group spokesman Whit Brittain, who lives on Linwood, said he had been watching the big birds congregate behind his home for the past five years, and said wildlife experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate that the flock has been doubling each successive year. Brittain estimates that it might reach 1,000 birds this winter if left alone.

According to Mayor Kathy Harrison, Public Works Director Jay Wilson earlier this year wrote a letter to the affected residents saying that his department will do anything possible to alleviate the problem. One such action is the firing of "sonic cannons," owned by the USDA, to scare the birds away to hopefully convince them to find another roosting place.

Since the firing of the cannon would take place over about a two-week period, usually in the evenings when the birds start to roost, Police Chief Earl Hyatt told Mayor Kathy Harrison that the firings, said to be about the loudness of a shotgun, would probably violate the city's anti-noise ordinance.

Alderman Butch Berry read from the ordinance, in which it appeared that it applied only to electronically-amplified sound. He voiced the opinion that Council action might not be needed.

City Attorney Tim Weaver weighed in with the opinion that lack of Council action to suspend the ordinance might well result in legal action against the city and/or Council.

Following additional discussion and statements by another half-dozen residents, Alderman Terry McClung moved and Penny Carroll seconded that the sonic cannon be allowed to be used in the neighborhood for a period of two weeks, starting as soon as Wilson is able to obtain the device and schedule its use. The vote for the motion was unanimous.

In other matters, the Council:

* Failed to nominate Eric Scheunemann for re-appointment to the Planning Commission. Alderman Lori Weaver's motion to appoint did not receive a second.

* Held a public hearing on Robert Wagner's request for a Certificate of Public Convenience to start a new taxi and limousine service, but postponed any decision until the next meeting at the request of attorney Kent Crow. Crow said David White, who currently holds the only taxi permit in the city, was unable to attend and had hired attorney Matt Bishop to oppose Wagner's request. While four or five residents spoke in favor of Wagner's proposal, Crow pointed out that several requirements of state law concerning items to be submitted with his application had not been submitted. The postponement, Crow said, would allow Wagner to amend his request by the addition of those items. The Council vote to postpone was unanimous.

* Overrode Mayor Harrison's veto of Ordinance 2028 concerning the city's funding of downtown building Christmas lighting for the City Advertising and Promotion Commission. Harrison's veto was based upon a Municipal League attorney's opinion that state law did not require the CAPC to obtain bids if they were to spend monies generated by their taxes. But bidding is required if the money comes from the city's coffers.

City Attorney Weaver advised the Council to enact an ordinance to waive bidding to eliminate any perception that their action was an attempt to circumvent state law, but no response was made to his advice.

The overriding motion passed on a 5-1 vote, with Lori Weaver dissenting.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: