Cape Girardeau City Council narrowly affirms deer hunting in city

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One hour of testimony from exasperated opponents and the reversal of Mayor Harry Rediger weren't enough to overcome four Cape Girardeau City Council yes votes Monday night -- just enough to approve urban deer hunting in the city limits starting this fall.

Cape Friends of Wildlife, against the measure for months, didn't even wait until they got out of the council chambers Monday night to begin planning a move to block the plan with hopes of putting the issue to a citywide vote perhaps as early as November. That means the debate, already in the public arena for more than six months, could linger on for many more.

Group leader Stephen Stigers said he was leaving the meeting "disappointed but energized to pursue a referendum."

The council gave first-round approval to the revised version of the deer hunting ordinance on a split vote, with chief proponent John Voss and fellow members Meg Davis Proffer, Mark Lanzotti and Trent Summers voting in favor. Opponents Loretta Schneider and Kathy Swan were joined by Rediger on Monday.

The council will make its final vote at its July 2 meeting, though Monday's outcome doesn't seem likely to change.

Voss didn't speak during the council's discussion, which came after he listened for more than an hour to opponents make final pleas to shoot down the ordinance. He said after the meeting he has made his case for months that he believes allowing an archery program in Cape Girardeau would safely allow the city's growing deer population to be thinned to reduce damage to landscapes and help curb deer-related motor vehicle accidents.

Voss said he did not have concerns about plans to put the issue to a vote of the people.

"It's their right to go to their neighbors to come together to voice their opinion," Voss said. "I respect that."

Still, he said, he still believes an urban deer hunt is the best plan he's heard so far. The final draft, as expected, would require participants to complete a hunter safety course through the Missouri Department of Conservation, hold an archery permit and complete an application for a city hunting permit. No hunting would be allowed within 150 yards of any church, school or playground, and hunters are required to ensure that arrows don't land within 75 feet of any front yard property line or within 50 feet of any street or public right of way.

The ordinance set the minimum property size for hunting at one acre, although adjacent landowners will be free to combine parcels. That was a sticking point that caused Rediger to switch allegiances.

"The main problem I have is that small of a lot size," Rediger said. "I'm in favor of a hunt. I said from the start I wanted a one-year trial on a five-acre lot. Even if it was five acres, I was struggling with it. But the one acre was just too small."

Ten residents spoke in opposition, most talking beyond the allotted five minutes. After each speaker concluded, the room erupted in applause in the nearly full council chambers.

Opponent Judy Pulley said she was concerned about the safety of residents, who now could be subjected to arrows careening through backyards. She also worried about a provision of the original draft that was loosened to reduce the minimum distance hunters must maintain from dwellings from 100 yards to 30 yards.

She told council members "that should be your concern also. ... This decision is not only dangerous but irresponsible."

Another opponent, Vivian Selby, chastised the supporting council members with her contention that they had made the issue about sport hunting rather than effective deer management. She also accused the council of "blatant disregard" of the public's wishes.

Other speakers made similar pleas to the council to deny the program, saying it would make the city unsafe and leave it susceptible to lawsuits.

"All that money from Cape Splash will go to a lawsuit," said Janet Presson. "It will."

Still, the supporting city leaders remained undeterred. Lanzotti noted that 23 Missouri cities and municipalities have some form of deer hunting. While some opponents continued to call for a deer count before the program is implemented, Lanzotti said he trusted the conservation department, which has maintained Cape Girardeau has a deer problem.

"Is it perfect? I don't know," Lanzotti said. "But we're going to find out. If we need to make changes, we can make changes."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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