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September 19, 2020 - 10:28am

Owners of property in the City of Batavia identified as archery-only hunting zones in an approved deer management plan say they are either noncommittal or not willing to participate in any culling operation.

The Batavian contacted four residents and previously obtained comments from a fifth, Noah Majewski of Alexander Road, who spoke at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

At the meeting, Council members voted in favor of the City Deer Management Plan, a 25-page document that puts the Batavia Police Department in charge of selecting and registering hunters, forging cooperation agreements with landowners and other related responsibilities.

The plan is set up to mirror, to some degree, a deer management program run by the police department in the Town of Irondequoit, and came to fruition after eight months of work by a now defunct Council-appointed City Deer Management Plan Committee.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch reported that he will be reaching out to citizens who own land near and around three of the five designated areas where deer congregate to see if they wish to permit hunting on their property.

Those areas are:

-- Unit 1: A parcel north of Clinton Street, owned by the Reinhart family.

-- Unit 2: About three acres at the end of Northern Boulevard stretching north of Evergreen Drive, owned by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley;

-- Unit 3: Five acres west of State Street (across from Batavia High School), with the majority owned by Duane Preston and another acre for hunting owned by Russell Nephew. (Nephew had served as spokesperson for the deer management committee that resigned last month over miscommunication involving changes to the plan).

The other two zones are city property:

-- Unit 4: Route 98, south of Walnut Street area near the Waste Water Treatment Plan, and adjacent to land owned by Majewski;

-- Unit 5: Law Street (about one and a half acres), east of the city’s Yard Waste Station going toward Tonawanda Creek.

The plan stipulates that city employees only will be permitted to hunt in Unit 4 and Unit 5.

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski responded to an email asking about liability insurance by forwarding the NYS General Obligations Law (GOL 9-103).

The law provides general liability protection to landowners who allow a number of types of recreational activity on their lands, including hunting, provided that the landowner is not receiving a fee for providing that access, and also provides that the owner does not owe a duty to users or assume liability for injuries, and does not attach gross negligence of the owner.

“As we move toward implementation of the plan, we will look into this further as we engage with potential landowners with the collective goal of reducing the deer population in our city,” she said.

Concern over liability in case of injury, for example, seems to be the main reason why a couple of the landowners are apprehensive about getting involved.

-- Hawley said he received information about the plan a couple months ago from Samuel DiSalvo, also a member of the deer management committee, but hasn’t had a chance to look them over.

“I’d have to take a look at the specifics of it … I have a dog and grandchildren, so there is some concern, but at the same time there are certainly a plethora of deer, and they’re bold,” he offered.

He acknowledged that there is a deer problem.

“It’s something we’ve talked about forever -- and if this is a plan that looks as though it could work and cull out some of them, then that’s a positive thing.”

-- Jerry Reinhart Jr. said he hopes that the program will be able to “make a dent” in the large deer population, but the property owned by his family is big enough for only a couple people – “and our family hunts on it.”

Thus, he said that parcel of land would not be available for the city’s deer management plan.

-- Preston, owner of Preston Apartments in Batavia, said he is waiting for official paperwork from city management and would forward that on to his attorney for review.

“I’ve seen all the people bailing out on this so I would have to get attorney approval at this point as far as liability involved with people being on your property – if somebody gets injured,” he said. “So, I am not sure as far as the legality aspect of having individuals on my property with arrows.”

He added that he isn’t ruling out participating in the program.

“I am affected by the deer issues on my property. I can well attest that the deer have a grand buffet on my bushes,” he said.

A resident of Carolwood Drive on the northeast side of the city, Preston said there were only four or five deer in that area when he moved there 23 years ago.

“But now, there are 25 deer just roaming through the back of Hawley’s land all the time. They go right up through North Street, over to Allenview Drive down Garden Drive, and it’s the same with State Street (where he owns an apartment building across from the high school) and at my Parkview Apartments on Pearl Street. Three of my properties in the city are affected so I know it’s an issue.”

-- Nephew went a step further, stating that he wants no part of the program, evidently still displeased over the way things turned out between the committee and city leaders.(See the links to previous stories below).

“I don’t want anybody on my property,” he said.

-- Majewski said liability issues will prevent him from getting involved.

He said he was concerned that someone might get hurt, and was upset by the fact that people trespass onto his property.

He added that he runs “nuisance beaver traps” with a nuisance beaver permit from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. He said the traps are set around a swamp and he would hate to see someone step in one of those traps.

“I just feel like this is opening up a whole new can of worms to bring more people into an area that’s populated with people, that has people running around there," he said. “It’s a big area of concern for me. I have a fiancée. She hunts with me. She hunts on the ground. I’m also worried about her being on the ground and people not shooting safely around her.”

DEC Weighs in on Police-Run Plan

An email was sent to the DEC about the city’s decision to have its police department coordinate the program.

Its response:

“The City would be the managing lead and administrator if they were to develop a police run hunt. If the City police managed a localized hunt it would provide more direct regulation related to deer that travel onto lands outside the jurisdiction of the hunt.

“Unless the City of Batavia seeks a special permit from DEC for additional harvests, opportunities or methods, via the Deer Management Assistance Program or Deer Damage Permit program, then their hunt program would simply fit within the framework of our general deer hunting regulations (seasons, tags, implements, etc.). Batavia may opt to set specific controls that are more restrictive than State regulations, but they could not be more liberal.”

Previously: City Council seeks public input as it forwards deer management plan to its August meeting

Previously: Council, manager attempt to smooth things over with their deer management plan committee

Previously: BREAKING: City's deer committee resigns in 33 second meeting this morning

Previously: Police department to manage Batavia's deer culling plan that places restrictions on city property

July 11, 2020 - 12:10pm

Watch out, Bambi. The City of Batavia is coming for you.

A three-phased plan intended to harvest up to 60 deer per year with archery-only hunting is expected to be presented to City Council at its Conference Meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

According to memo dated July 6 from Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski to Council members, the City’s Deer Management Plan Committee, formed in November, has completed its task in the form of a 21-page plan to reduce the deer population within the City limits. The committee was created in response to numerous incidents of property (landscaping/garden) damage, auto accidents and other problems caused by deer.

Working with Robin Phenes, state Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist, and Council Member John Canale, the five-member committee, per the memo, has drafted a proposal that “provides a streamlined program experience and ensures programmatic compliance, program metric tracking and stakeholder/City Council communication.”

In simpler terms, the plan specifies the time frame, five designated hunting zones, and rules and regulations, and includes permit applications, landowner cooperation agreement, hunter applications, waivers and release forms and a proficiency test.

Tabelski spelled out several highlights of the plan:

-- Plan A, hunting during the New York State regulated hunting season; Plan B, an extended hunting season (Jan. 2-March 31); Plan C, archery hunt utilizing bait (subject to Council approval). Times for hunting will be from sunrise to 2 p.m., with no hunting when schools are closed.

-- Five designated hunting zones as identified on an included map, as follows: (1) parcel north of Clinton Street, (2) land in the Naramore Drive area and north, (3) property west of State Street (in vicinity of BOCES) and proceeding north from Lambert Park, (4) Route 98, south of Walnut Street area, and (5) Law Street area stretching almost to Kibbe Park.

-- Hunting will be permitted only after the landowner signs a cooperation agreement form.

-- Tree stands must be used and all hunters must shoot downward. Hunters must be properly qualified and licensed and apply to the City of Batavia to be admitted into the program.

-- The plan is subject to NYS DEC setback requirements pertaining to the proximity of bow hunting to schools, playgrounds, public buildings, etc.

-- The program will run for three years and can be terminated at City Council’s discretion.

Citizen members of the committee are Russell Nephew, Gus Galliford, Fred Gundell, Kent Klotzbach and Samuel DiSalvo.

Council will be asked to vote on forwarding the resolution to a future Business Meeting.

Other topics on Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

-- A draft resolution to grant approval to Eli Fish Brewing Co. at 109 Main St. for a temporary outdoor dining license agreement as part of the City’s COVID-19 2020 Temporary Outdoor Dining on City Property Program.

Eli Fish’s application specified that 12 tables, serving up to 52 guests, will be placed in Jackson Square, with hours of operation set at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A memo from Tabelski dated July 7 indicated that while the Eli Fish application qualified for consideration, an application from Main Street Pizza at 206 Main St. did not and is not recommended for approval.

Vic Marchese, owner of Main Street Pizza, had proposed to put up a 15-foot by 75-foot tent, with lighting, in the parking lot on the east side of the restaurant – utilizing seven to eight parking spaces. Eight to 10 tables, accommodating up to 60 guests, were to be placed under the tent.

Tabelski spelled out several reasons why the plan would not be feasible:

-- Per the state Building Code, a tent can not be put up within 20 feet of lot lines, a parking space, buildings, etc.;
-- The City does not own the entire parking lot;
-- The application removes several prime parking spaces, including handicap spaces;
-- The one-way street would require a traffic order and, for a temporary dining basis, the City would not be able to facilitate a Local Law change in a timely fashion;
-- A traffic safety issue would occur due to cars coming into the lot off Main Street and backing out of parking spots.

Tabelski wrote that she advised the applicant of the potential problems, but he “was not interested in modifying the application.”

A draft resolution for the Main Street Pizza request is not included in the meeting document packet.

-- A pair of draft resolutions concerning a feasibility study for the construction of a new police station at the Alva Place location and corresponding contract with an architectural firm to conduct the study.

The first resolution asks City Council to transfer $50,000 of the $242,820 in the Facility Reserve fund to an expense account.

The second resolution seeks execution of a contract for $41,200 with Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville, to provide the recommended square footage, design and layout, ability to expand, regulatory requirements and projected costs for design and construction for both the site work and the actual facility.

-- City Council will conduct a Business Meeting after the Conference Meeting. Agenda items for that session include a resolution to enter into a $328,200 contract with Keeler Construction for the Franklin Street-Richmond Avenue sewer rehabilitation project.

The cost is significantly less than the original estimate of $806,000 because the City altered its plan from a complete sewer line replacement on Franklin Street to an excavated repair of one section and relining of the rest of the line, and then to include relining of the Richmond Avenue sewer ahead of its rehabilitation project in 2022.

June 22, 2020 - 9:28pm

While some restaurants have been able to utilize their patios and decks to increase the number of customers during the COVID-19-induced 50-percent capacity phase, others without outdoor dining areas are limited by their four walls.

Batavia City Council members don’t think that’s fair and they are looking into a way to temporarily provide municipal space for dining establishments to serve their customers under sunny skies.

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski opened a discussion on the subject at tonight’s Council meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

“I just wanted to update Council tonight and take your temperature on moving forward with the potential of outdoor dining expansion of restaurants that do not have their own capacity to expand on their own property,” said Tabelski, adding that Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan allowed for outdoor dining.

She said that many restaurants in Batavia took advantage of that and expanded on their own property, but just as many don’t have that option. As a result, three restaurant owners have contact City officials to see if it would be possible to expand onto City-owned property.

Since then, the Finger Lakes Region, which includes Genesee County, has moved into Phase Three – permitting restaurants to have on-premise dining with a maximum of 50-percent occupancy.

Tabelski said the topic also has been discussed during an economic development COVID recovery task force comprised of representatives of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, Batavia Development Corporation, the City of Batavia, Genesee County and the Chamber of Commerce.

She also said there is guidance from the New York State Liquor Authority authorizing this, prompting her and City Attorney George Van Nest to draft an application that would be subject to review by City Council.

If approved, the dining establishment, after acquiring proper liability insurance, would be granted a temporary license to operate outdoors on municipal space.

Van Nest said the approval would constitute a “license agreement, not a license or permit, per se, but the actual ability to use that property … consistent with an event application.” He said the liquor authority requires the municipality to submit an application covering those properties and having an adjoining license certification from the restaurant.

Council Member John Canale said he has been thinking about this type of action during his trips around the City.

“To me, this is an absolute no-brainer,” Canale said. “It’s nice to see these restaurants getting creative (by using the sidewalks) and I hope that we as a City allow them to continue to do this for a period of time … Because their capacity is limited to 50 percent inside, if they can gain in nice weather the outside access, it would make up for that.”

Council members Kathleen Briggs and Patti Pacino said they agreed with Canale, while Council Member Jeremy Karas took it even further, suggesting that this could become a seasonal thing.

Council President Eugene Jankowski also said he thought it was a good idea as long as any expansion didn’t interfere with other businesses. He stopped short, however, of endorsing an annual benefit, stating that that was a discussion for another time.

After Council Member Rose Mary Christian said she also was on board with a permanent arrangement for using City land, Van Nest advised that it could evolve into the City requiring a lease agreement and trigger possible assessment implications.

The debate ended with Council asking Tabelski and Van Nest to get the application to Council members as soon as possible for placement on the agenda of their next meeting on July 13th.

In other developments, Council:

-- Heard a report from Karas and Public Works Director Matt Worth that City crews and the state Department of Transportation will be joining forces to replace the sunken manhole covers on Route 98 (Oak Street).

Karas said the covers are causing excessive noise in the area, especially when tractor-trailers coming from or going to the Thruway exit roll over them.

Worth said the DOT has agreed to provide traffic control while City workers replace about 10 manhole castings that are in the driving lane and, finally, get rid of the “clunk-clunk times 100” sound that reverberates through homes along the way.

The tentative schedule calls for the new manhole castings to be replaced in August.

“We will be resetting (them) so they’re flush and then DOT will pave them in that area,” Worth said. “Hopefully, they’re nice and smooth … they’ll fit tight and the noise goes away.”

-- Heard a brief report from Canale that the committee charged with looking into the deer population problem in the City is almost ready to address Council with its recommendations.

Canale said the state Department of Environmental Conservation made a few changes with the wording and has given the City a deadline of Aug. 1st to submit its application.

Calling it a “great plan,” Canale said the committee desires to have guidelines in place by the start of hunting season this fall.

---------------

Following the meeting, Jankowski was asked if Council had discussed a plan to find a replacement for Martin Moore, who left his position as City manager on Saturday by what was publicly announced as a “mutual agreement.”

“We haven’t discussed it as a Council, but I know that City staff are doing research and they’re going to provide that information to Council so that we can make a decision as to how we want to go forward,” Jankowski said.

After it was mentioned that the City would get a “free search” from Novak Consulting Group since Moore's tenure lasted less than two years, Jankowski said, “if that is the case, then that’s definitely an option that we’d have to consider.”

The City contracted with the Ohio firm to coordinate the search in the summer of 2018.

October 28, 2019 - 9:50pm

nephew_deer.jpg

Deer are taking up residency in the City and the time has come to do something about it.

That’s the message conveyed by City Manager Martin Moore, Ph.D., at tonight’s City Council meeting as he outlined potential steps to reduce the number of deer and the difficulties they are causing for homeowners.

“Indicators are showing that deer are establishing residential ‘homes’ in the City and its seems to be increasing,” Moore said at the end of a report to Council about his discussions with officials of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and his call to form a new committee develop a plan of action.

Moore said he has received a “verbal commitment” from a DEC wildlife management specialist to come to a Council meeting next month to advise the board on the best way to proceed in culling the deer population.

“There are specialty types of controls (to ensure) a plan approved by New York State,” he said.

At the outset of the meeting, Council heard from Pat Cooper and Russell Nephew, residents of State Street in the vicinity of Batavia High School, who both said they have been confronted by deer recently (with the latter stating that she was actually chased into her apartment by a deer).

Nephew noted that the City has had an issue with an overabundance of deer for the past five years and said the predicament “is getting worse and has actually elevated to a new level of concern.”

“The City’s past Council has done investigations and surveys and they concluded there was a problem and agreed that action must be taken, as you do now,” he said.

He reported that the Town of Amherst had a similar situation between 2015 and 2017, and by virtue of special out-of-season hunting permits issued by the DEC, reduced the herd by 571.

“This is just one example of a possible solution to the problem,” he said. “By all of us working together, we can solve this problem.”

Nephew then took a local print media outlet to task for its publication of a satirical column last week, equating the deer to a West Side Story-like gang intimidating the residents of State Street.

“Instead of making an editorial joke of a situation that occurred, just report it as it happened,” he said. “I know all about your First Amendment rights, but your first responsibility is to your readers to bring them an unbiased representation of the event.

“Jumping right into an editorial opinion gathered from second- and third-hand information is unprofessional and unethical. Your quest to garner readers through your attempt at humor slid by this time, but will it lead to tragedy if the problem is ignored?”

Following the meeting, Moore elaborated on the steps going forward, adding that he hopes to have it in place within six months.

“Our exact steps right now is that tomorrow I will be asking the City Clerk to put out for applications for the public to be able to be on a deer committee -- it’s open to the public,” he said. “We’re going to ask them to get their applications in in a reasonably timely manner because as soon as we have enough qualified applications we will be getting them to a committee with the City Council for review – and as long as the individuals meet the residency requirements … they’ll be a recommendation that goes to the Council.”

Moore said that should Council vote to approve the establishment of the committee, they will set a first meeting right away and nail down a date (likely Nov. 12 or Nov. 25) for officials of the DEC’s Wildlife Management Division to address the board.

“They (the DEC) will look at how are urban structure is, they will look at some areas and ideas for dealing with the proper population-control measures – things that are safe, things that don’t either endanger or cause excitement at the public, but at the same time are effective,” he said. “Nothing is 100-percent guaranteed, obviously, when you take steps to control population.”

The city manager said an effective deer management plan is the goal – a strategy approved by City Council and then approved by New York State.

“Once that plan is approved at the state level, then we’re in a position to start talking about implementation,” he said. “And then we will be talking about the steps and timelines for implementation of ideas that come forward and are ultimately approved.”

As far as the extent of the deer population is concerned, Moore said he has “photographic evidence of fawns being born in people’s back yards … of deer coming out in the daytime as well as at night. We’re seeing them in every part of town.”

Moore said the wildlife specialists told him that other indicators of too many deer are when disease starts to come in and when deer show signs of being malnourished.

“But I don’t think we’ll see a nourishment issue in the City because, honestly, for deer it’s like coming to the supermarket,” he said. “We apparently grow some great stuff for wildlife. That’s going to be the challenge … how we balance this knowing the (number of) deer here and bringing it down to a manageable level.”

Photo: State Street resident Russell Nephew urges City Council to find a solution to the deer problem in Batavia. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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