Hunting bill to require common safety practices; housing measure passes

The Baltimore Sun

The debate over regulating hunting in Howard might not be over, despite passage of a County Council bill revising the rules.

The council rejected proposals to require advance notice of hunting and to prohibit shooting toward playgrounds or recreation fields, but those elements could return as new legislation, said Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, sponsor of the amendments.

The council also revived and approved a separate bill last week meant to encourage faster construction of below-market priced homes for limited income families.

Sigaty, a west Columbia Democrat, said she thought her ideas would have helped promote safety, but other members said the proposals would require a delay to allow for more public discussion.

Still, the council approved the final bill 5-0 Monday night, and members said the final product is an improvement.

The measure requires hunters to follow existing safety protocols and not fire unless they can see a backstop for their shot or are shooting downward from an elevated perch. It also provides for a maximum $1,000 civil fine for anyone who ignores safe practices and damages private property as a result. But the bill drops provisions that would have doubled the safety zone distance for discharging a firearm to 300 yards and banned hunting on tracts of less than 10 acres in the rural west.

Hunters argued the original bill was too restrictive for what they feel is a safe sport that was tarnished by an isolated incident in December when a hunter's slug hit the window of a Clarksville day care center while children were inside.

Greg Fox, a Fulton Republican whose amendments to County Executive Ken Ulman's bill carried the day, said the changes "put more accountability, responsibility and liability on hunters" without unduly limiting their sport.

The council slogged through an often arcane discussion and took eight separate votes on amendments and procedural issues Monday night before the final passage of a bill.

The council also revived Councilman Calvin Ball's tabled housing bill, which was then approved, with Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat, the lone dissenter.

By a 4-1 vote, the council also approved a measure revising the county's complex growth control system to promote faster construction of developments that include discount homes under the Moderate Income Housing Unit program. The program requires builders working in 11 zones to include a percentage of lower-priced homes in their developments. County growth controls, however, limit the number of new units approved annually to 1,850, including 100 set aside specifically as MIHU homes.

The measure, which Ball sponsored, allows them to use allocations for below-market-priced units to get started on retail priced homes first.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad