Eureka council sends deer hunt back to committee for review

Friday, July 13, 2012

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The deer hunt approved by voters came back to the City Council table Monday night. Alderman Karen Lindblad said she has received complaints and questions from city residents, especially concerning the length of the hunt season.

The bow hunt is scheduled for Sept. 15-Oct. 7. After a break for the fall tourism season, the hunt resumes Nov. 10, and ends Feb. 28. Lindblad noted that this season includes Valentine's Day, an important date for bed and breakfast establishments. She also complained of holding the hunt during the Christmas shopping season. Lindblad raised the spectre of having wounded deer running through the city, possibly dying on property owned by people who objected to the hunt. She also said she would prefer to have the hunt managed through the protocols of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Mayor Morris Pate explained that the city council had created a committee including Alderman Butch Berry, Police Chief Earl Hyatt, and three citizens. That committee determined the arrangements for the urban hunt. Pate said the AGFC had determined the city did not have enough public property to organize a hunt under their protocols, and they suggested using the same approach as a hunt club.

"This committee has worked hard," Pate said. "We have addressed every issue we came across." He said open meetings did not draw any opposition, and he said the only calls to city hall on the subject came from property owners offering to include their property in the hunt. However, he said if the council disapproved the arrangements,

"We'll give it back to you and you can do with it what you want," Alderman Ken Pownall said, "I'm concerned we are not having a hunt as the people voted." Pate said the committee has tried to comply with the intentions of the voters.

Alderman Lany Ballance echoed the sentiment that the hunt, as planned, differed from the one approved by citizens.

Pate reiterated that the hunt club approach was recommended by the AGFC.

Pownall asked that the committee submit its rules for the hunt by Aug. 15, and the other aldermen agreed.

City Attorney

Pownall had sponsored an item on the agenda asking for an update from City Attorney Tim Weaver on ordinances, resolutions, and other council actions. He explained that council has asked Weaver to assemble ordinances or research questions, and he felt that Weaver had not always responded. In response to a question from Weaver, Pownall did not know of specific items the attorney had failed to deliver, but he thought there were "six or seven" directed actions which had not been produced. Pownall then moved to withdraw the item from the agenda "because no one cares."

Tram funding

The Transit Department had sent a memo to the council saying that trams providing city tours are 15 years old and will need to be replaced. Federal grants will not fund sight-seeing vehicles, and the city will be asked to find funds for new trams. During a brief discussion, aldermen questioned whether the city could afford to buy new trams, and questioned whether it would be appropriate to use city funds in this manner. The discussion was postponed until the first meeting in August.

Planning issues

Beverly Blankenship, chairman of the Planning Commission, received council's permission to submit an ordinance requiring all commercial building projects to receive approval from the commission. "Our code says the purpose of our zoning code is to protect and enhance the value of the area," she said, adding that city codes currently only require approval of the Historic District Commission. Blankenship said the ordinance would include provisions to allow projects to go forward even if the commission could not meet because of lack of a quorum.

Blankenship also said, "We have a problem to address" regarding tourist lodging in areas zoned R-1. City codes currently do not restrict weekly rentals in the residential zones, and some property owners rent their property by the week. "People want to preserve our neighborhoods," she said. The council voted 5-1 to allow Blankenship to work with the city attorney to make the necessary changes in city codes.

Taxis and limos

The agenda included an ordinance regulating limousines failed on its second reading, but the aldermen voted to reconsider it. Pownall said the ordinance should have included wording to require some advance time, so that a limo could not be hired on immediate notice. This would further differentiate limos from taxis.

Alderman James DeVito objected to a provision of the ordinance requiring a two-hour minimum rental. "I can't see impeding the ability of a limo driver to make a living," he said. A related discussion of the city's taxi franchise was postponed, and DeVito asked for a workshop to be scheduled on the issues.

Voting by wards

Lindblad said she has received comments from voters who do not understand why they should vote for aldermen from other wards. She spoke of her experience in running for council, when she had to campaign throughout the city, not just in her ward.

DeVito said any changes to the way citizens elect their representatives should be voted by the citizens. He said council would have a conflict of interest if they made such changes at the council table. The council will continue discussion on issues of representation, which could include staggered terms for aldermen.

In other business:

* Although property owners affected by the proposed vacation of Vine Street have endorsed the proposal, a public hearing scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on July 25 will still be held, and further action on vacating the street will be postponed until after the public hearing.

* Ordinance 2154, dealing with animal-drawn vehicles, was approved on its second reading. Before the third reading, the aldermen asked to have an opinion from the police chief about whether the ordinance can be enforced.

* Dan Hebert was approved to fill a vacancy on the Historic District Commission. Pate cast a deciding vote after two abstentions and one negative vote led to a 3-3 deadlock.

* Ordinance 2158, adjusting charges for emergency medical services, was approved on its first reading.

* Ordinance 2157, revising ward maps, was approved on its second reading.

* During the public comments period, Joe Zickmund objected to the actions of a city official. He said City Clerk Ann Armstrong called police after he placed a number of flags around the city in advance of July 4. Although the police did not consider this a violation,

Zickmund said Armstrong called his place of employment, identified herself as a code enforcer, and said the flags were in violation of city codes.

* A discussion of non-conforming off-premises signs was postponed until the sign ordinance is approved.

* A discussion on funding for The Auditorium was postponed until the next meeting.

* A proposed resolution for a recreational trails grant was withdrawn and will be submitted again at a later date.

* Discussion of water rate increases was postponed pending further review.

* A discussion concerning commissioners failing to attend meetings was postponed until July 24.

* Discussion of yellow trash bags was postponed.

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