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Board won't ban hunting in township

June 23, 2010 - Residents who wanted to bag a ban on hunting in part of Orion Township had their hopes shot down Monday by the Orion Township Board of Trustees.

Petitioners asked for the ban on 30 parcels around E. Silverbell Road between Silver Valley Road and the railroad tracks, citing concerns over illegal hunting practices.

"It's all on record," said Ken Brown, who lives off Silverbell Road and told the board of his experiences since moving to the area. "The sheriff's been out, the DNR's been out; no one has any idea who's responsible for taking care of the problems. One officer said the only way he could help is if I showed bullets in my house."

According to Brown, hunting occurs during restricted times-out of season, before dawn, and after sunset.

"We already have laws that could be enforced," Brown said, also citing the shooting of protected game, hunting in a "safety zone," illegally hunting via boat with motor or sail, crossing through or hunting on private property without permission, or crossing over railroad tracks.

"It's illegal," he said. "It happens all the time off Silverbell Road. They park, walk down there and walk in. The DNR found three blinds back there, but never caught anyone. People in the area don't know where they can hunt of what laws are."

According to a memo issued by the supervisor's office, the residents in 2009 requested petitions to ban hunting in an area bordered by the utility corridor ROW on the north, Giddings Road on the east, the railroad tracks on the west and a straight line from Giddings Road to where Judah ends at Joslyn Road to the south.

Only two of the 26 signatures collected were within the area during that time, however, and township officials advised petitioners more signatures from within the proposed district were required.

The petitioners returned with a revised request for a smaller area, and asked for the hunting ban on 30 parcels around E. Silverbell Road between Silver Valley Road and the railroad tracks.

But Trustee Neal Porter noted the number of signatures on the petition -- six -- received at the supervisor's office June 11.

"Less than 10 percent of landowners have signed this petition, yet the area is huge," he said. "I think they're imposing their views on their neighbors."

Supervisor Matthew Gibb said that, while historically the board has asked for signatures from 50 percent of property owners when considering a petition, the law doesn't define how many petitions are necessary for the board to act, the number is discretionary.

"It's up to the board," he said.

Resident Robert Marion said he was supportive of the hunters, and claimed those against it were opposed to what can become a noisy environment on Mud and Carpenter Lake during duck and goose hunting season.

"I hear it too," he said. "We don't like to hear it, but that doesn't mean they don't have the right to hunt where they've been hunting all their lives, because five or six people moved here the last five years and decided they don't want to hear gunfire."

"Everything I've heard is within the rules," said Kevin Crocker, noting he's lived on Carpenter Lake 17 years, and doesn't "see any problem" with the hunting practices he's observed. "I am a hunter; I don't hunt the area, but I do support the right for the people who have done it all these years."

Crocker also said the DNR goes out on the lake periodically for a "routine patrol."

Another man told the board he doesn't live in the area with the proposed ban, but said he and his parents own an 11-acre parcel they bought specifically for hunting and fishing.

Joe Dzieciolowski, who lives on a 2-acre parcel off Silverbell, hunts his property, as well as that of a neighbor, whom, he said, granted permission.

"That's one of the reasons I moved out here," Dzieciolowski said. "There's lots of hunting in Lake Orion. I just can't see how five of six people can decide for these people who've been hunting there forever."

Trustee JoAnn Van Tassel said it wasn't the first time the board saw petitions to close an area of the township for hunting.

"I see value in getting the DNR involved to educate everyone on what's allowed and what's not allowed, where the safety zones are," she said. "The DNR, in my opinion, is predisposed to allow hunting, and if the DNR holds a hearing, people will realize 'Hey, there is a concern here.' This doesn't do anything other than get the DNR involved, and the DNR makes rules not this township."

But the board was solidly against the idea, voting 5-1 to deny the resolution, with Van Tassel dissenting. Clerk Penny Shults is currently on a mission trip to Haiti.

Had the resolution to ban hunting been adopted Monday night, the resolution would have been forwarded to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE) requesting the formation of a Hunting Area Control Committee consisting of representatives from the township, the sheriff's office, Michigan State Police, and the MDNR.

The committee would set and hold a public hearing to receive testimony from interested parties before rendering a decision.

Board members said they would reconsider the ban if the petitioners came back with more support from landowners in the area.

Currently, in Orion Township, hunting for any wild animal or wild bird with a firearm or bow and arrow, or the discharge of a firearm, is prohibited the township's northeast quadrant, except the state-owned land in the Bald Mountain recreation area.

Hunting with or discharging a firearm is also unlawful on the waters of Tommys Lake, or on the land within 450 feet of the water's edge.

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