Hunting map results in public outcry, petition
Every weekend during hunting season, residents of the Bailey Lake neighborhood wake up in the wee hours of the morning to the sounds of gun blasts.
“People feel like it’s a war zone every Saturday and Sunday,” said Kathy Jorgensen, a resident from the south end of the lake.
Jorgensen presented Woodbury City Council with a petition Wednesday asking to revoke hunting permits in the area of Bailey Lake where recreational hunting is allowed with landowner permission.
With 60 signatures in hand, Jorgensen said she was disappointed in the city’s “knee-jerk” decision to approve a new hunting map earlier this month instead of tabling it after hearing residents’ concerns.
“Public input was invited but was completely disregarded,” she said.
The city’s hunting map hadn’t been updated since 2008. City Council approved the new map two weeks ago, closing off some areas where development has occurred in the past few years, keeping some parts of the city open to hunting and marking pieces of the southern portion of the city as restricted zones.
Public Safety Director Lee Vague said all hunting taking place in the Bailey Lake area has been legal, and that each permit is issued individually after careful consideration.
But Jorgensen expressed concerns over the disconnect between what’s being published as part of the hunting and weapons ordinance and what’s actually allowed.
The city ordinance says it’s unlawful for anyone to use a controlled weapon in any residential area platted as “R-2” (single family estate) and “R-4” (urban residential), on any school property, in any developed business, commercial or industrial area.
But it goes on to say that “Woodbury Public Safety Department may grant a limited permit to allow the discharge of a controlled weapon.”
Bailey Lake is one of the few neighborhoods south of Bailey Road and east of Radio Drive that have been developed into single family estate districts, according to the Woodbury zoning map.
Most residents have lived there for 20-plus years and they say they’re fed up.
“Everybody who lives here is saying, ‘Please don’t hunt,’” Jorgensen said.
Because of the loophole in the hunting ordinance, Jorgensen decided to dig up the city’s noise regulations to find out if shotgun sounds would represent violations.
That ordinance restricts activities that make unreasonable, annoying disturbances that “endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, safety or welfare of any person or persons, or precludes their enjoyment of property.”
City Attorney Tom Weidner responded to Jorgensen in an email obtained by the Bulletin that justifies use of shotgun hunting in relation to the noise ordinance.
“The sound of the discharge of a firearm during hunting season within a designated hunting area is not an unreasonable sound,” he said. “These sounds may be an annoyance to some surrounding property owners; however, my opinion is the offensive behavior does not rise to the level of a criminal act.”
“I guess we would contend much differently,” she told the City Council. “If you’re on that skinny little lake and you’re trying to sleep … it’s definitely an unreasonable sound and it’s definitely an alarming sound.”
Bruce Caufield, who also spoke at the council meeting, said he lives 1,000 feet from where shotguns are going off. He said he feels unsafe and annoyed.
“It’s not just one gunshot, it’s a barrage of gun shots,” he said. “With hearing these shots I don’t feel safe in my own home.”
He also asked the council to take away hunting permits already granted for this season.
“I’m asking you to rescind those permits and restore the peace and quiet.”
From closed to restricted
In 2006, the Bailey Lake area was closed to hunting when the city used zoning as basis for drawing a hunting map that determined where a person could legally hunt with a firearm, according to the public safety department.
Vague said that system was confusing and showed Bailey Lake as closed when in reality hunting permits were issued because they fit state regulatory guidelines.
“This was rectified in 2008,” he told Jorgensen in an email, adding that the revised weapons ordinance language that tied zoning with firearm hunting was taken out.
“This was done to eliminate confusion within areas that were marked as closed, but in actuality met state guidelines that made it lawful to hunt,” he said.
When it was recognized that hunting permits were being issued in some areas of the R-2 district, it was then changed from “closed” to “restricted” in 2008.
Vague said at first glance the weapons ordinance can be confusing, which is why each subsection must be looked at individually.
He explained that in relation to hunting with a firearm, current city code does not use zoning to stipulate where a person can and cannot hunt; instead it relies on the permit process and the use of the map to identify open, closed and restricted areas of the city.
The only part in the ordinance that relates firearm use to zoning is in regard to controlling varmints, which says weapons are not allowed in R-2 and R-4 areas for that purpose.
“This is the only provision in the current ordinance that relates firearms use to zoning,” Vague said. “However, it too is specific in that it only applies to controlling varmints, not recreational hunting activities.”
Revisit sooner than later
City officials previously decided to meet next April to revisit the hunting map after hearing numerous concerns from residents in the Bailey Lake area along with others near the Newport border, and to also review any necessary updates now that development is taking shape in southern Woodbury.
But Jorgensen said it’s unfair to wait for new homes to be built before the city decides to close off hunting.
“Most of my neighbors have lived here 20 to 30 years and we have to keep putting up with it,” she said in an interview. “But if a new developer comes in, they’ll pay attention to that?”
Council Member Paul Rebholz said seeing as the city is only meeting a couple more times in the next two months, there is time to schedule a special meeting to discuss the hunting issue.
“Seems to me that there is a balance of issues that this brings up now that those permits have been issued,” he said, adding that he’d like to see a report by the city attorney examining the pros and cons. “We can certainly schedule a meeting if we need to do that.”