By Jennifer Solis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — A committee tasked with developing a potential hunting policy for town land will continue meeting despite feedback from some residents that they preferred it wouldn’t.
At a meeting last Wednesday, selectmen announced that Jamus Driscoll, the member of the newly formed Hunting Committee who initially approached the board about developing a policy to govern bow hunting in town, will no longer be on the committee because he has accepted a job in Munich, Germany.
With the five-member committee now reduced to three, selectmen asked member Chris Trim if he felt the panel could continue with its task. Trim said he did, but it needed more than just three members to do the research required into hunting policies in other towns.
When Rodney Chadwick stood up in the back of the room and volunteered to serve, he was appointed without discussion by two votes from Selectmen Bert Knowles and Glenn Kemper. Their colleague, Dick Cushing — the only selectman to vote against seating the committee to begin with — abstained.
Chadwick offered that he thinks the policy adopted by the town of Andover would be a good model for West Newbury. Along with Trim and Chadwick, Steve Forrest and Jennifer Germaine also serve on the panel. All members are hunters and Germaine is also a member of the Open Space Committee.
Kemper stressed that he didn’t know how he was going to vote on any proposed policy but believed it was a discussion selectmen should have. He thought having non-hunters on the committee could be counterproductive because the process could get bogged down with a debate over the merits of hunting vs. non-hunting.
Once the committee makes its recommendation, he envisions holding public forums, then having selectmen debate and vote the issue, he said. Trim added that a period for public comment would be part of the agenda at all the committee’s meetings throughout the process.
But resident Amy Lucas felt the board had put the proverbial cart before the horse. Lucas contended that a majority of residents oppose the idea of hunting of any kind on town land. She called for selectmen to bring the question to Town Meeting floor for a vote this spring. Why would selectmen proceed with a committee to develop a policy without first checking to see what the interest for it was in town, Kemper was asked.
“We do a lot of things that the majority of the town doesn’t want,” he responded, adding that many people have contacted him over the years asking why hunting isn’t allowable on land that was purchased with taxpayer dollars. Since he is not a hunter himself, Kemper believed it would be valuable to have a committee representing those particular stakeholders develop a policy first.
Resident Barry Fogel said selectmen made a mistake in creating an advisory committee at this point in the process. Instead, he suggested any interested hunters should have been encouraged to research the topic on their own, without the constraints of the Open Meeting Law to which a formal committee must adhere. Then selectmen could have seated a committee comprised of multiple stakeholders to review the research of this particular interest group along with opinions from other groups in town.
Selectmen did not respond to Fogel’s suggestions, but instead moved to appoint Chadwick as the fourth member of the Hunting Committee.
According to Trim, the committee plans to hold an open meeting later this month, but a specific date is still pending. State law requires posting the meeting on the meeting board in the foyer of the 1910 Town Office Building at least 48 hours in advance. Meetings are also often added electronically to the town calendar at www.wnewbury.org.
Trim said given the amount of work in front of them, his committee would likely not have a recommendation for selectmen prior to the Annual Town Meeting in April.