New firearms legislation prohibits hunting on Stow-owned property

New legislation creates specific parameters for using firearms

by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter Published:

Stow -- Hunters can no longer set their sights on Stow property.

City Council unanimously adopted legislation Dec. 13 updating the city's hunting laws, and the biggest change to the code is a provision that precludes any and all hunting on city property.

"The last ordinance simply wasn't very clear," said Deputy Law Director Amber Zibritosky, who wrote the language for the new hunting legislation. "It was very antiquated and we thought we'd just revamp the whole thing and make it more clear and readable. The new ordinance clearly spells out there's no hunting on city-owned property."

The city's first hunting ordinance was adopted in 1979, she said, and was particularly ambiguous, making the corresponding law difficult to apply. One issue is how the legislation said a hunter is allowed to exterminate rodents, vermin or other nuisance animals -- but what constituted those creatures was never clearly defined.

In referencing the fall of 2011, Zibritosky said requests to hunt on city property were uncommon, but hunters would sometimes inquire about where and when they could hunt and how they could get a permit to do so.

"There was just a lot of confusion, and I'm sitting here as deputy law director where it's my job to interpret laws and this doesn't look easy to understand, then we've got to change it," she said. "What ended up happening is everyone just treated [hunting] as though it weren't permitted."

While the city would typically deny approving any permits to err on the side of caution, a permit could have potentially been acquired to allow someone to hunt on city-owned property 10 to 25 acres in area.

Police Chief Louis Dirker said during a Dec. 10 meeting of Council Committees that the department may sometimes receive an average of one to two inquiries about hunting on city property per year.

Although the new law prohibits any hunting whatsoever on city property, Zibritosky explained, it does permit hunting in the city under very specific conditions.

Per the new code, hunting is allowed of certain creatures only during state authorized hunting seasons, and the hunter must be licensed through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Secondly, a person can only hunt on a tract of land with 25 acres or more in contiguous property or by combining property. If a person is combining property, that total area can not have more than two homes on it. The hunter is also required to carry written permission from the corresponding property owners at all times.

Finally, Zibritosky noted the hunting code now features a specific, "complete buffer zone" of 300 feet or more from any boundary line, residence, vehicle, highway or other structure. Both the hunter and target need to be a minimum of 300 feet away before a weapon can be legally discharged.

All other state regulations are in effect as well. A hunter isn't permitted to shoot a gun if a person is viewable in the background of their target, for example.

"Everything harmonizes with existing laws," said Zibritosky.

Besides conditions permitting hunting, the corresponding legislation now includes a section on airguns, slingshots and bows that was created after Ward 3 Councilman Brian Lowdermilk brought it to the city's attention that the old code prohibited the shooting of pellet guns.

Zibritosky said the code now allows a person to shoot airguns, slingshots and bows on their own property, but with a buffer requirement of 100 feet from everything. The shooter is also required to shoot at a target of a particular size with a backdrop and with the permission of the property owners.

Anyone found violating the hunting law could be charged with a criminal offense. Someone violating the section of law permitting airgun, slingshot and bow use could be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

"From the law department's perspective, we don't really have opinions on policy," said Zibritosky. "But we like to have laws that people can understand, and I very much like the new law because it's clear. People can now know what's allowed and what's not, and that's important."

Residents can find all the city's codified ordinances online by going to the city's website at www.stow.oh.us and clicking the "Ordinances" link under the "Government" tab at the top of the page.

The database hasn't been updated yet to reflect the new hunting codes, Zibritosky said, but will soon.

Email: jnobile@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400, ext. 4179

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