Eureka's urban deer hunt put on hold

Friday, July 27, 2012

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Concern over the proposed limo ordinance and the scheduled in-town deer hunt dominated Monday night's City Council meeting as it had other recent meetings.

Debate over the limo ordinance centered on whether to prevent limo rental from competing with regular taxi service by either requiring a two-hour wait time when reserving a limousine, or else requiring a minimum two-hour rental of the limo.

A motion requiring a two-hour lead-time when scheduling a limo was made by Alderman James DeVito and seconded by Alderman Butch Berry but finally tabled until the second meeting in August. "I'm uncomfortable dictating a fee like this for a business," Berry later said. "Is that even allowable by state law? I don't think that's been established."

A taxi franchise workshop was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Monday, July 30.

Deer hunt stalemate

Aldermen Karen Lindblad and Lany Ballance, who previously expressed concern over the upcoming urban deer hunt, brought discussion of the topic to the table again Monday night. Lindblad said several people had been worried about both the length of the hunt and the proficiency of the 15 hunters chosen for the hunt.

Currently the bow hunt is scheduled for Sept. 15-Oct. 7, then resumes Nov. 10 and ends Feb. 28.

"I talked to the Arkansas Bowhunters Association today, and they make their bowhunters go through a lot of training to carry their card," Lindblad said, "whereas a regular hunter with a regular license can use any weapon in season, trained or not."

Mayor Morris Pate responded that bowhunters are particularly conscientious and their backgrounds would be checked.

Lindblad added that members of the Arkansas Bowhunters Association are required to go through eight hours of safety training and have their backgrounds checked for criminal records and/or infractions of Game and Fish rules.

"I just don't see how the city can set up this thing and choose the hunters for the hunt with no expertise," she said. "Some people are really upset. It seems every property owner who doesn't want to participate must mark his or her property. What about people who don't own a lot of property but adjoin property owners who have agreed to participate?"

Berry said public response had been about three-to-two in favor of the hunt. He said there had been concerns about the length of the hunt, but according to Arkansas Game & Fish, in their 10-plus years of experience with urban hunts, no one had ever been injured or killed.

DeVito disagreed.

"I've been against the feeding ban from day one," he said, "and if this hunt is about our endemic deer population, and since the drought is driving deer into the city that are not normally here, I don't think it's fair they become party to the hunt because weather conditions are driving them into the city, which they would not normally do. I'm not in favor of the hunt. As a compromise, I say eliminate the first portion of the hunt -- Sept. 15-Oct. 7 -- and leave the remaining period. A five-month hunt is too long."

Ultimately, the council voted to suspend plans for the hunt as recommended by the Deer Hunt Committee. Berry asked that the deer hunt issue be put back on the agenda for the next meeting, which will take place Monday, Aug. 6.

As a result of council's voting against the hunt based on these issues, the scheduled urban deer hunt is on hiatus.

"At this point, a deer hunt can still be held, but you've just voted down the deer committee's recommendations about how and where," said Pate.

Weekly rentals restricted

A moratorium was read into the record regarding week-to-week property rentals in town. Blankenship has been working with City Attorney Tim Weaver regarding the issue of weekly rentals taking place in areas zoned R-1. City codes have not previously prohibited weekly rentals in residential zones, and Alderman Beverly Blankenship said property owners were concerned with protecting their properties.

Attorney Weaver pointed out the concept of grandfathering might come into play so that those now renting by the week can continue to do so legally in future.

Ballance said if she wanted to rent her house for a week, it would be a burden to have to go through the CAPC or other appropriate office. "I would like the freedom to deal with my own property," she said.

Weaver pointed out the way the law is written now, those renting by the week should already be paying the weekly tax, and recommended the moratorium as "maybe the best way to figure the issue out."

Other business

* Assistant Fire Chief Bob Pettis appeared before council regarding amending an ordinance for adjustments of EMS charges.

"This year has been busy," Pettis said. "Right now we are 150 calls over last year. Last year we averaged three EMS calls a day, now it's four. People say we are doing such a good job of saving people's lives we could get return fire business!"

Ordinance 2158 was passed after council members approved it on its second reading and again on its third reading by title only.

* Ordinance 2157 regarding ward map revisions was approved so it can make the November ballot.

* The nomination of M.J. Sell was re-floated to the council with the suggestion a council member bring it back to the table.

* During council comments, Ballance reached out to absent Alderman Ken Pownall. "He has been undergoing some trying times and we just want them to know he's in our thoughts, and we miss his research and learned comments," she said.

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