November 26, 2014

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Selectboard will revisit firearms ordinance

Sept. 30, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The Selectboard has decided to post no hunting signs on two pieces of town property, and left open the possibility of expanding Williston’s firearms ordinance in the near future.

The board has in recent weeks reviewed recommendations from the Conservation Commission of where to prohibit hunting in Williston. At its regular meeting on Monday evening, the Selectboard unanimously voted 5-0 to ban hunting at Mud Pond Country Park and Mud Pond Conservation Area. The town will also continue to post no hunting signs at Five Tree Hill Country Park, which it began doing last fall.

The Conservation Commission, in a memo from Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti, suggested the board “prohibit hunting on town-owned lands that are popular hiking and mountain biking locations including Mud Pond Country Park and Five Tree Hill Country Park.”

The memo also carried a recommendation to “prohibit hunting at the Mud Pond Conservation Area to preserve the spirit of conservation and assure that no hunting occurs within the deed restricted 8-acre ‘island.’” The conservation area includes 8 acres in a swampy area that, when donated, carried a directive to remain free from hunting.

The Selectboard agreed with those recommendations, though board member Chris Roy noted responsible hunting need not exclude conservationism.

The board refrained from expanding the Restricted Firearms District Area to Brownell Mountain, the Burnett Property and the Hill Property, as the Conservation Commission recommended. Expanding the discharge area south of Interstate 89 would have prohibited hunters from using rifles, pistols, revolvers or single projectiles from shotguns in the aforementioned areas.

Board members Jeff Fehrs and Judy Sassorossi brought up the possibility of posting Brownell Mountain, as many area residents have complained about illegal shooting in the area. Yet the board ultimately decided that residents were more concerned about unlawful weapons discharges than with hunting.

Board members worried about the expense and enforceability of posting no hunting signs around all pieces of town-owned land. And if the board opted to broaden the firearms discharge ordinance to all town-owned land without posting signs, members questioned if people spending time in the woods — hikers as well as hunters — would know when they had crossed between private and public property.

“It’s hard to know exactly where you are in the woods,” Sassorossi said.

The discussion caused the board to narrow the focus of where to prohibit hunting, and led to the decision to post the two Mud Pond areas.

“I think the priorities should be where we have town-owned infrastructure,” Roy said, referring to the areas with established trail systems.

Yet Williston may still see changes to its hunting and firearms policies. The board directed town staff to explore the possibility of expanding the town firearms ordinance.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said staff would draft proposed changes for the ordinance. Once the Selectboard reviews those changes, it may decide to schedule a public hearing on the issue.

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