Board discusses Island trapping law
By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The wheels are in motion to draft a new town master plan.
In a two-sentence memo to the Grand Island Town Board dated Jan. 14, Supervisor Nathan McMurray wrote, "A motion is in order to re-institute a Long Range Planning Committee. Members of the committee will be appointed by the supervisor."
"We're going to seek people to be on this committee. Basically, we want to redo the master plan so going forward we have a firm master plan that we all agree on," McMurray explained during Tuesday's regular board meeting at Town Hall. "We think it's about time. The membership of that committee and the number of members on the committee, it's all been a discussion. We'll determine that at a later date, but just be advised that's coming soon."
Council members Mike Madigan, Bev Kinney, Ray Billica and Chris Aronica let McMurray know they wanted the entire board to have a say in the matter.
Board members however were unclear who had the authority to appoint members of the ad hoc committee: the supervisor or the board as a whole. Madigan asked McMurray if the entire board would "be involved in the appointment process."
McMurray said he understood that by town law it was a supervisor's appointment, but added, "I will consult with all the board members on people we appoint and I'll make sure that we have a diverse group."
Councilman Aronica said he thinks all members of the council should look at the resumes of prospective committee members and interview candidates as a board.
"This is a big deal and I think we absolutely have to all interview everybody that comes forth and then make a selection as a board together," Aronica said.
Madigan said the issue was important because the Town Board would have to agree on the final plan, and if the Town Board has input on the makeup of the committee "that will provide some additional buy-in to whatever the output is coming out of that committee."
McMurray pledged the Town Board members would all have buy-in.
"This is going to be a waste of time to create a committee that creates some biased document that everybody hates," McMurray said of the master plan process. He asked that the Town Board "choose people that can cooperate and work together so that we can create something that we're all proud of."
McMurray moved to establish the committee and Aronica seconded. Councilman Ray Billica asked to wait to determine the process first before establishing the committee, to which Madigan agreed.
"Well, can't we just create the shell today so we have it?" McMurray said. "It's going to be created one way or the other. I'm not trying to stack the deck here."
"I just want to get the process started," McMurray said.
Madigan said he would be comfortable voting "Yes" on a motion to establish the committee if McMurray would include in the motion that the board members would be involved equally in the selection process. McMurray said he believed the appointment was in the power of the supervisor by town law.
Billica reconsidered and told McMurray, "If you have the ability to appoint the committee, it doesn't make any difference if we make a motion or not."
"So it's a moot point," Billica said.
The committee was established without the motion.
McMurray said he thought it would take a long time to create a new master plan and the next step would involve the process of appointing citizens to sit on the committee.
McMurray said he sought "full buy-in from the community because whatever we create, if it's not in a transparent manner, it's going to be useless anyway. I just want to get the process started."
When Madigan still sounded hesitant, McMurray asked him what he was worried about.
"You think I'm going to and create a master plan and put, like, Disneyland in the middle of the Island? What's the real concern here?" McMurray asked Madigan.
"My concern is I think as a board that we need to be aligned on the appointment of this committee and I think that's going to be an important part of the process," Madigan said.
Billica told Madigan he agreed, "But if it's the supervisor's prerogative to appoint a committee and he wants to appoint to the committee whomever he wants to be on it, he can do that. I think he's saying to us that he's going to involve us in the process. That sure would be nice, and I'm going to try to hold him to that."
McMurray told Madigan, "So many things in local politics take forever, and this is going to take forever. I just want to get it started. I promise you you'll be involved, Bev will be involved, Chris will be involved, Ray will be involved."
It was this type of discussion that residents who frequently attend Town Board meetings noted was a welcome addition to the meetings. During public comments at the end of the meeting, Paul Koppmann of Timberlink Drive, who has spoken frequently at meetings in the past regarding issues related to the Lighthouse Pointe proposal, said it was "very refreshing to me to hear give and take" between Town Board members and the supervisor. To have Town Board members ask questions during the meeting "to me is what the process is all about."
He said the new board is talking to residents, on issues such as a proposed agriculture district and trapping on town land, and "actually going out to visit properties, so this is what I view is town government at its best."
Koppmann applauded the board for passing a local law amending the R-2 zoning earlier at the meeting. The law came after residents near Whitehaven and East River roads opposed rezoning a parcel to allow apartments for the Lighthouse Pointe proposal. Opponents of Lighthouse Pointe claimed on their website the Town Board wanted the ability to rezone properties zoned R-2 into Planned Development Districts that would allow developers to build high-density rental apartments.
"Those of us who have been fighting this for almost two years, I applaud the Town Board for recognizing the rights of its citizens," Koppmann said.
The law "goes a long way in protecting residents from developers coming in. At least it gives them, the developer, some sort of a guideline where Grand Island not only stands now but where we want to go in the future," he added.
Island Trapping Law Proposed
•The Grand Island Town Board is gathering information about a proposed local law from residents that would ban trapping on town property.
During a workshop meeting that preceded the Town Board's regular meeting Tuesday, the board discussed a proposed local law brought forth by Whitehaven Road residents Nicole Gerber and Dave Reilly that would prohibit the use of wildlife traps (also known as body-gripping devices) on all town properties.
The law's stated intent is "to protect public welfare and animal welfare by prohibiting the use of all types of wildlife traps." The ordinance "is necessary to protect its residents from injury (physical and emotional); to protect domestic animals from injury and death; to preserve wild animals in their natural habitats; and to prevent the unselective catching, maiming and killing of wild animals, including birds and any threatened, endangered, or otherwise protected species."
According to the law, town properties would include all "town parks, trails, public open spaces, roads and highways (paper and paved), ditches and culverts of such roads, and any other town-owned property that may or may not be developed, accessed or routinely utilized by the town or the public."
Bryce Shipman of Fix Road, speaking on behalf of his son Josh, who is a trapper and was unable to attend Tuesday's meeting, said trapping occurs only from Oct. 25 to Feb. 15. He read a study that said trapping showed a non-target capture rate of 3 percent.
Gerber spoke and said the law they presented protects the public's right to use town property without fear of a trap, a hidden danger. She said she has received 800 signatures on a petition for a ban on trapping on town public lands. She said her proposal is narrower in scope than what other towns have adopted, pointing out Arizona has a complete ban on trapping on public land.
The board discussed the matter, with McMurray saying he was "leaning towards doing nothing, really, but I think we need to gather more information."
Any local law on the matter would require a public hearing.
•The board authorized additional lights in Lighting District No. 30 that covers the Spicer Creek Townhouses. The Spicer Creek Homeowners Association requested an addition of four low-watt LED lights to illuminate road signage. Spicer Creek Townhouses are located off Whitehaven Road. Its lighting district was created in 1998.