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At-Large Candidates Talk Deer, Local Preservation

Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a six-part series featuring the candidates running for Jamestown City Council.

Six candidates are contending for three At-Large positions on the Jamestown City Council.

The two incumbents include Kimberly Ecklund, who has served on the council since first being elected in 2003, and Jeffery Russell, who is going for his first re-election bid following his 2019 election. The challengers include Christina Cardinale, Randall Daversa, Ellen Ditonto and Alyssa Porter.

Ecklund, Russell and Daversa are all endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties. Cardinale, Ditonto and Porter are all endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties.

Each candidate was asked the same four questions. This is the second part of a two-part article on the At-Large candidate’s responses. Below are their responses to the third and fourth questions asked.

Question 3: With the Jamestown City Council voting down a proposal to operate a controlled deer hunt to curtail the population of deer in the city, what should be the next step taken by the council to try to control the deer population in the city?

Ecklund: The Jamestown City Council did vote down the proposed deer hunt in September, but most, if not all, would agree that the topic should not go away, and discussion should continue. A deer mitigation plan needs to be a comprehensive multi-level approach that will address not only the reduction in the population, but also the interest of public safety as well. I encourage the committee to continue investigating the range of possibilities as well as involving not only the residents of Jamestown, but also the DEC, the neighboring towns and other agencies.

With only a 1% vehicle traffic accident due to deer, is this really a public safety or public nuisance issue for our town? The plan presented was lacking in oversight and that was a large concern for me and needs to be addressed as well as a possible deer numeration. This type of action plan needs to have all areas addressed including cost, liability, and most important safety. The Irondequoit NY policy is an example but I am certain there are others we can learn from for the best interests of Jamestown.

Russell: I am not totally opposed to a controlled deer hunt. There were several unanswered questions and concerns from both council members and citizens during the process. The committee chaired by Councilman (Thomas) Nelson should remain intact and discussions continue. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also needs to play more of an active role locally and statewide with this area of concern. A New York State Environmental Conservation Officer was never made part of the discussions.

Cardinale: I applaud Councilman Tom Nelson for trying to resolve the problem. I would have liked to see the council collaborate before voting against Councilman Nelson’s original resolution. Proposals can be tweaked to make things work for everyone. If we want a solution for the deer problem, Jamestown City Council will have to implement the necessary infrastructure, then follow up with a comprehensive plan.

Daversa: The mayor and the council would need to do some fact-finding of how other towns and cities that have some success dealing with the same types of issue. Such as, sterilization via darts, and harassment to deter the deer from city neighborhoods.

Ditonto: The city has a deer population problem. It is one of the most common issues brought up by residents in door-to-door campaigning, particularly in areas surrounding the city’s parklands. However, the first council proposal was not well-vetted. I believe there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to the deer problem. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has developed a deer management plan for the state and has assisted communities in the development of community-based deer management programs. I believe we need a better and more comprehensive approach to deer management in Jamestown. We need to find out specifically what safety provisions are put in place in communities where controlled deer hunts are allowed, and what insurance liability protections need to be included in any agreement. In addition, the city should work with Cornell Cooperative Extension to inform residents about deer-resistant plants and shrubs that can be used in areas where deer invade yards and gardens.

Porter: I hope the proposal for a controlled deer hunt is taken back into committee for revision and is considered for another vote. The originally proposed plan provides a strong foundation that if revised may make it easier to implement initially. For example, beginning this program on a limited basis with fewer hunters, shorter time periods and an explicit, robust communications plan; followed by an option to expand after review of the initial pilot period would allow the city to analyze what works for our community and our current resources. While we can learn from examples of successful controlled hunts in other cities, I don’t think we should take for granted the unique needs of our community.

Question 4: Should the city of Jamestown have a Local Preservation Ordinance? If you believe Jamestown should have one, why? If you don’t think Jamestown should have one, why not?

Ecklund: The Jamestown City Council has not been presented with the proposed Local Preservation Ordinance at this time, but it has been discussed by the Planning Commission. At this point in time, I feel that the city needs to develop a Local Preservation Policy before developing an Ordinance. A policy will allow the city to have greater oversight, develop tools for the preservation like lower financing and the differentiation between residential and commercial historical preservation. An ordinance is a tool, not a policy, that comes with a significant amount of control over properties that could potentially be placing owners into difficult financial situations causing adverse effects (foreclosure, demolition, etc.). By developing a policy first, we will set up the owners for more success and not lock them into bureaucracy that will force them into financial hardships and red tape.

Russell: The discussion of a Local Preservation Ordinance is in its infancy. I have concerns that such an ordinance could put undue strain on property owners. Forcing residential owners to maintain period correct structures will be costly and could cause owners to flee.

Cardinale: I cannot express the complexities of a Local Preservation Ordinance in a few short sentences. Some residents may enjoy living in a historic district while some residents may find it too restrictive. On one hand, you’re protecting neighborhoods. On the other hand, you have to consider property rights and listen to private property owners. If we’re going to seriously discuss this type of ordinance, we better have a conscientious City Council. Based on their recent conduct, I don’t believe we currently have a City Council that can handle this level of due diligence and responsibility. We can change that on Nov. 2.

Daversa: It is important to preserve the historical buildings, but in some instances it could be a financial hardship to some landowners. Also it is possible to utilize the American rescue funds to assist with these preservations of our city’s history.

Ditonto: A Local Preservation Ordinance should not be the first step in the city’s efforts to protect and improve its historic structures, but one could be developed that provides incentives and encouragement to property owners who want to improve and enhance historic properties. I believe that incentives, not fines, should be used to encourage property improvements to historical structures. Unfortunately, many of the city’s largest and historic homes have been renovated into multi-tenant units already. I think it would be wise to look at how a new comprehensive plan and updated zoning codes could help protect historic structures. The city has struggled with a lack of sufficient staff to enforce codes and adding another ordinance will not help. Over 95% of the city’s housing stock is over 50 years old, with almost 60% of it being 100+ years old. The city needs to address its zoning laws and institute more strict code enforcement strategies as first steps in maintaining and preserving its housing stock.

Porter: Local Preservation Ordinances vary greatly in both how they are written as well as how they are enforced. If done well, a Local Preservation Ordinance can help our community protect homes and buildings that are significant to our history. This can provide a great opportunity to share and celebrate Jamestown’s past as well as learn from it. However, the city must be careful about the impact that this would have on the rights of property owners especially since current property owners would have made their investment choices prior to the adoption of a Local Preservation Ordinance.

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