Deer running loose in the City of Batavia -- creating havoc with residents' flower gardens and posing a threat on roadways -- has been a problem of varying degrees in the City of Batavia for the better part of two decades.
So, in the eyes of City Council, any deer management plan that does not include an option to cull the deer population is simply passing the buck (or doe).
On Monday night, council members responded to a report submitted by the Council-appointed Deer Management Task Force that recommends a non-lethal approach to managing the deer population.
During a discussion steered by Council President Eugene Jankowski, the board agreed that more needs to be done to minimize the impact of deer in several parts of the city, notably the Naramore Drive, Clinton Street, South Main Street and Burke Drive areas.
"Did you reach out to the Hawleys and Michalaks (property owners on Bank Street Road in the Town of Batavia), the county or the town to network with them and possibly assist us?," Jankowski asked Mike Freeman, task force chairman, following Freeman's presentation. "I think we need a balanced approach, and I know that the Hawleys and Michalaks are open to assisting us."
Deer herds on those Town of Batavia properties make their way into the city, primarily causing problems in the northeast section of the community.
Councilman John Canale agreed with Jankowski, while noting that he has seen eight or nine deer running through Lambert Park near Burke Drive. Councilman Robert Bialkowski said he is aware of herds on South Main Street, Union Street and at the VA Medical Center and Councilwoman Patti Pacino has received calls about deer on Ross Street.
"There are people who have done everything (to deter the deer from coming on to their property)," Pacino said. "Can't we do better? Isn't there something we can do? In a year and a half, there won't be a tulip on Ross Street."
The task force's report (details were outlined in a story on The Batavian on Monday) focuses on ways to alleviate or prevent "deer-related impacts" -- through an informational link on the city's website and basing its recommendation on survey responses that suggest the issue "did not rise to the attention that a lethal and proactive initiative needed to be undertaken ..."
Freeman, who said the task force did not speak to the Bank Street Road property owners, said residents need to be educated about ways "to keep their property safe and to keep the deer away." He also noted that it is against the law to feed the deer.
As far as hunting deer within the city limits, the task force did not rule that out as long as residents adhere to NYS Environmental Conservation Law, which restricts the discharge of a gun, bow or crossbow within certain distances of residences and buildings.
Task force member Joe Rowbottom of Naramore Drive said he has been dealing with deer in his yard since 2001. He said the best way to cull the herd is during the summer, at night, baiting them and using sharpshooters to take them out.
"But, there is a problem with legality," he said. "You have to get property owners to agree. And who is going to be liable if mistakes are made?"
Jim Rosenbeck, of Lewis Avenue, speaking during the public comments portion of the meeting, said he didn't think it is "realistic" to hunt deer in the city.
"I don't want to see the city get deeply involved in a hunt in the city," he said. "Issuing a permit in the Town, that's the way to do it. Homeowners can come together and go to (speak) to Mr. Hawley."
In the end, Jankowski and Council called for the task force to continue its work by exploring a "combination plan" -- culling, education and enforcement of the law -- that would ultimately involve the Department of Environmental Conservation in the process of issuing permits and butchering the deer (with meat given to local food banks).
"We need a little more research, a couple more options," he said.
In other action, Council passed two resolutions dealing with the community's Comprehensive Plan update -- (1) establishing the City as the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) for the draft Comprehensive Plan and (2) setting a public hearing on the proposed plan for 7 p.m. Aug. 14.
City Manager Jason Molino reported that the City Plannining & Development Committee already has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for July 18.
Once adopted, Molino wrote, the Comprehensive Plan will require zoning code updates consistent with the new plan, adding that the City has money in a committed fund balance to support zoning code updates.
Photo: Mike Freeman, chair of the Deer Management Task Force, addresses City Council on Monday night. Seated at the table in the back are other task force members, from left, Ken Alfes, Joe Rowbottom and Rae Ann Engler. Photo by Mike Pettinella.