City officials on Tuesday sat down with about 15 city residents at the Brainerd Police Department to discuss the proposed ordinance regulating the discharge of firearms within the city.
The proposed ordinance was tabled by the city council Sept. 22. As a result of Tuesday's meeting with residents, several changes will be made to accommodate residents with large parcels while protecting residents who use public lands.
The ordinance, though for discharge of firearms, is aimed at hunting in the city. Hunting is currently allowed and has been for more than 100 years, Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc said, following state guidelines. Those guidelines say the discharge of firearms is not allowed within 500 feet of a dwelling or occupied building except at open water with vegetation present in the water or if permission is given by the property owner.
The problem, Bolduc said, is currently there is no clearly defined hunting map, meaning there are places within small-lot residential neighborhoods were someone could legally discharge a firearm.
"The way language is currently written it's difficult for us to enforce," Bolduc said. "For our need, we'd like to see clearly defined boundaries."
The proposed ordinance makes it illegal to discharge a handgun or rifle in the city. Other firearms, such as shotguns and muzzleloaders, would be allowed for hunting with a permit from the city but within certain hunting zones. Archery would be allowed in other zones.
Several property owners objected to the restrictions imposed in the proposed ordinance, especially for properties annexed within the past 10 years near Beaver Dam Road that are several acres, in some cases up to 40 acres, in size.
"The city promised us everything would stay same," said Dal Mar Drive resident Greg Jilenski, referring to an agreement when the land was annexed. "We want everything to stay that same in our area."
Council member Lucy Nesheim, who attended the meeting with council members Kelly Bevans, Anne Nelson Fisher, Mary Koep and Bonnie Cumberland, believed that agreement should be honored.
Riverside Drive resident Kim Sievek, while not against hunting, hoped for better enforcement. He brought with him a bag of BBs fired from a goose hunter's shotgun that had pelted his property.
"It's just too close," Sievek said. "It's not a safe deal for us to go out in the yard at a certain time of year."
One man, who left the meeting early, questioned why the city would want to make more ordinances for something that was already legal.
"If it's legal to hunt there, what are you reinforcing?" he asked before leaving the police department.
Bevans suggested the ordinance allow hunting, including with rifles, on private parcels of a certain size and with a permit from the city and make public lands archery only.
Resident and Planning Commission Chairman Bob Sherman said allowing archery hunting on public lands, many of which have public trails, precludes all people from using the land.
"It's dangerous," Sherman said of bow hunting on public lands. "It's bad land use."
Cumberland said she received a phone call Monday from a concerned resident who hasn't called police on hunting complaints because she was concerned her name would appear in the Dispatch's police blotter report. Bolduc said complaints can be reported anonymously, but most information given to the police is public data and police couldn't control what goes into the newspaper.
"It's just like somebody reporting a crime - if they don't let us know we can't help," Bolduc said.
Koep said the way the ordinance was progressing would make it impossible to enforce. She suggested that unless someone owns a parcel of a certain size, hunting should be prohibited in Brainerd.
"I think we're making this way too complicated," Koep said.
Whatever happens, the proposed ordinance will not be enacted for this year's hunting seasons. The current tabled ordinance will have to be decided upon by the council, either for or against on Nov. 2. The revised proposed ordinance would receive a first hearing on that day, with a public hearing and final vote on Nov. 16.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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