ONTARIO — Ontario City Council members unanimously voted on Wednesday to table what council president Eddie Gallo called one of the year’s most divisive pieces of legislation.
“Obviously, this is a touchy subject, so I hope you’ve all given it your due diligence,” Gallo said. “There are strong opinions we’ve heard from both sides.”
At-large councilman Dave Rehfeldt suggested tabling the ordinance so council members could attend Wednesday’s pep rally for the Warriors baseball team.
“Everybody wants to get out of here to support the team and I think we’re going to short-change it,” Rehfeldt said. “I could go on for 15 minutes.”
Rehfeldt said at the May 17 meeting he didn’t think a few residents complaining warranted a new ordinance for the whole city.
Since the last meeting, the ordinance has been amended to state that residents allowed to bow hunt on their properties (at least 10 acres) can continue feeding deer.
If the ordinance passes, any exceptions not listed would be charged as a minor misdemeanor for purposefully feeding deer livestock feed, food scraps or mineral blocks. This does not include deer eating from bird feeders, gardens, or eating fruit or nuts that have fallen on the ground.
Council again heard from some residents about the deer-feeding ordinance during public commentary.
Pauline and Eric Meyer, who live on Rock Road, said they feed deer at their home and have never encountered aggressive deer or many coyotes.
“We sit on our back deck and we watch the deer come and go,” Pauline Meyer said. “We watch them play in our yard and just enjoy nature.
“If we don’t feed the deer, they’re going to start coming to my flowers. And Tractor Supply Company is going to lose money because we’ll stop buying corn.”
Craig Hunt said he thought deer-feeding could be addressed by homeowners associations or between neighbors.
“I don’t believe it’s your job as council people to decide in a neighbors’ dispute if they just don’t like each other,” Hunt said. “Don’t punish the whole city of Ontario for feeding deer because two people are arguing.”
Council agreed to discuss the ordinance again at their July 12 meeting.
Also on Wednesday, City Council unanimously approved a 10-year, 50% property tax abatement for an enterprise zone addition at Shambaugh Cleaning & Restoration on Home Road.
Barrett Thomas, director of economic development for Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development, said Shambaugh currently has 29 employees and plans to expand its warehouse and hire at least five more people.
“I’m not speaking on behalf of Shambaugh, but they’re growing fast,” Thomas said. “I don’t know that five people is really what would happen — I would guess that there will be more than that.”
Mayor Randy Hutchinson said he thinks this agreement will help keep Shambaugh in the city of Ontario.
“They want to continue to grow and we want to continue to keep them in Ontario,” he said. “I think this is our first abatement agreement since GM expanded back in the ’80s or ’90s.”
The enterprise zone abatement agreement will move to Richland County commissioners for approval.