SOUTHWICK — After an hour of listening to property owners and hunters opposed to a proposed bylaw that would require hunters to ask permission from private property owners before stepping on their land, the Select Board on April 16 informally decided to remove the proposed article from a preliminary draft of the warrant for the May Town Meeting.

“My take on this … I think we can just take this down, and I don’t necessarily see a need for it,” Select Board Chair Douglas Moglin said.

Nearly 50 people attended the Town Hall meeting and over a dozen spoke in opposition. Three property owners spoke in favor.

Each of those who opposed the proposal pointed out that hunters have a great respect for the land and generally do get permission from property owners before enjoying the sport. Fran Mason who identified himself as a lifelong hunter and property owner in town, said there will always be a few “bad apples” that will sneak onto private property, even if it’s posted “no trespassing,” to hunt. He said a town bylaw “is not going to stop those people.”

At the meeting, acting Environmental Police Lt. Frank Soleimani said “if [private property] is not posted, you can hunt it,” stressing that his appearance at the meeting was only to provide information and not to provide an opinion on the proposed bylaw. He said 98% of the hunters Environmental Police officers encounter are hunting legally.

He said the town has a much larger issue with the use of recreational vehicles, like dirt bikes and quads, mentioning the agency had investigated three serious incidents in the last week.

Select Board member Diane Gale said a lot of people had voiced their support of the bylaw, but were afraid that if they spoke at a public meeting “they would have targets on them.”

That was the only moment when the audience erupted in protest.

Moglin said there had been “ample opportunity” for everyone to voice an opinion, and pointed to a letter Gale read from an opponent of the bylaw as an example.

Moglin asked for a vote to withdraw the bylaw proposal, but was informed that such a vote could not be taken because it wasn’t on that night’s agenda. He then conducted a “hypothetical” poll of his two colleagues, and all three agreed they would vote at a subsequent meeting to withdraw the proposal.

cclark@thereminder.com | + posts