Hearing set on proposed Leyden safety bylaw

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Recorder Staff
Friday, December 01, 2017

LEYDEN — A proposed bylaw aims to restrict the use of firearms on town-owned land as well as private property.

The Selectboard will hold a public hearing to receive feedback on the proposed three-part bylaw on Monday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

If passed, the bylaw, which was proposed by citizen’s petition, would prohibit discharging any firearm or weapon within the limits of a town-owned property, unless given consent by the Selectboard or other town governmental body with jurisdiction over the property.

In the case of private property, weapons should not be used without the owner’s written permission, which should be carried by the user, according to the proposed bylaw.

“This bylaw shall not apply to the lawful defense of life or property, nor to any law enforcement officer acting in the discharge of his (or her) duties,” the proposed bylaw reads.

Should the bylaw be approved, the fine would be $200 per violation, and any weapon used in the offense would be confiscated by police, the proposed bylaw continues. The Leyden Police Department, Massachusetts Environmental Police, or “any sworn officer who has jurisdiction in the town of Leyden” would be responsible for enforcement.

Resident Barbara Wallace said that she, along with Susan Howarth and Michele Higgins, collected signatures for the petition article. Wallace spoke to a personal experience last winter that led her to feel more thoughtful hunting regulations would increase safety in Leyden.

Wallace said her husband John, who is hard of hearing, was burning brush when dogs owned by coyote hunters went onto their posted property. One of the dogs, Wallace said, got caught in the electric fence surrounding their horse pasture.

“By the time he saw it, the horses were rearing and panicked, and they were slipping on the ice,” Wallace recounted.

Though the two called 911 and resolved the situation, Wallace said the incident is “still kind of a nightmare” in her head.

“The whole thing was kind of horrifying,” she said. “It just sort of defies your thoughts about private land ownership.”

Wallace said she feels the proposed bylaw is “really very practical,” and compares to those adopted by other Massachusetts towns.

“We’re not against hunting,” Wallace said, noting she and John both have hunting licenses. Still, she believes the bylaw, if passed, would bring both landowners and hunters comfort.

“They know who’s on their land,” Wallace said of landowners. “(Hunters) would also know from the landowner who else was allowed so they’d know who they’d run into.”

According to Selectboard Chairman Lance Fritz, the petition article was first brought to the Selectboard’s attention in time for May’s annual town meeting. However, the article was postponed indefinitely, with the Selectboard hoping to see the proposal come before a public hearing first.

Fritz said that given Leyden’s extensive forest land, coyote, deer and bear hunting is popular among both residents and out-of-town hunters, leading him to expect a large turnout of hunters and proponents Monday.

“It has a major impact on hunting within the town,” he said.

Fritz anticipates that after the public hearing, the proposed bylaw will be added to the Jan. 15 special town meeting warrant for public vote. Should the bylaw be passed, Fritz said it will likely be posted on the town website and at the entrances to town to make out-of-town hunters aware.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

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