Cayuga Heights board OKs deer plan
Remediation opponents criticize trustees' vote
6:56 PM, Apr. 7, 2011
The board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution Monday night to begin the deer-remediation plan outlined in the environmental impact statement on the project. The village will begin with the surgical sterilization of 20 to 60 does within a two-year period, followed by the culling of the remainder of the herd.
"The program is simply to sterilize does, and then, in some fashion, cull the deer," Mayor Kate Supron said. "There are different options about how to kill and we have not decided on which option yet. That is the work that lies ahead."
The vote took place during the village's annual organizational meeting. The deer issue has been a controversial one and the vote was no different. Members of the community voiced concerns that the board did not let the public know a vote would take place at the Monday meeting. However, other members of the public said the meeting was a legal one and the board has a right to vote on matters at any meeting.
Village Clerk Mary Mills said she was not sure when the agenda was posted on the village website. She e-mailed the agenda to trustees last Thursday, but she was not sure when the person who updates the website posted the agenda. However, she said, the village is not required to post an agenda.
Supron defended the action by saying the board made it clear during the trustees' March meeting that the next step was voting on the state environmental quality review findings statement. People who raised questions about the way the vote was conducted are those who oppose the remediation plan, she said.
"In no way have we tried to do this on the sly," she said. "Maybe this seemed anticlimactic to people, but the purpose of all meetings is to conduct village business with the public present as they desire."
The findings statement that the board unanimously adopted Monday night proposes that after the core population of does is sterilized and tagged, professional sharpshooters will be hired to shoot unsterilized deer at bait sites. It is anticipated the initial culling of the herd will be completed within the year after sterilization has been completed.
The first phase of sterilization is estimated to take two years at an average cost of $1,200 per doe, according to the statement. The cost estimate for the bait-and-shoot method, to take place within the year after sterilization, is $400 to $500 per deer.
It is estimated that six to 10 sites will be needed to complete the culling, according to the statement.
According to James LaVeck of Cayugadeer.org, four people were at the meeting, including himself, and the agenda was not posted until after the meeting. Therefore, the public had no way of knowing a vote would take place, said LaVeck, of Collegetown.
"It is proof the trustees feel their policy cannot withstand public scrutiny," he said. "The lack of transparency is very disturbing and I think this action really deviates from the normally high standard we have here of our governments."
Cayuga Heights resident Ann Druyan, who was not at the meeting, echoed LaVeck's sentiments. Though Druyan opposes the killing of the deer, she said the issue transcends people's stance on the issue.
"The way they chose to announce this was to do it in a way that people who have been engaged in the issue would be blindsided," she said. "If they had announced that this would be a meeting in which they would declare their conclusions, then the place would have been filled to capacity."
But other residents did not see any problem with the way the board conducted the vote.
The meeting was an official one, said Elizabeth Mount, a village resident and regular attendee at board meetings. The board has every right to vote on issues, regardless of public turnout, she said.
"It was an official meeting and we all could have gone," she said. "It is the board's legal right to vote and it is our fault for not being there."
Village resident Ron Bors attended Monday's meeting. He said he is generally in support of the plan and the vote seemed like a natural progression.
"Everybody knew the vote was coming and everybody knows important business is transacted at every meeting," he said. "The vote was the natural next step, so I expected that this was coming."
The board has spent a year and a half going through the legal process, Supron said. The public has had several opportunities to speak on the issue.
Whether the agenda was posted before the meeting is inconsequential, she added. There is no requirement to post an agenda and either way, the board voted and will carry out the remediation plan.
"I am sorry people are bothered they were not present, but this has been an open and legal process," she said. "When people start saying we are being sly and underhanded and haven't been fair, I do not see any basis for that. We have been extremely open and extremely fair in listening to people's views."
Brenda wrote:The first phase of sterilization is estimated to take two years at an average cost of $1,200 per doe, according to the statement. The cost estimate for the bait-and-shoot method, to take place within the year after sterilization, is $400 to $500 per deer.
Cayuga Heights deer-culling plan spurs lawsuit
Plaintiffs fault village on environmental impact
6:35 PM, May. 24, 2011
A dozen local residents have filed a lawsuit challenging the Village of Cayuga Heights' deer-management program.
The suit was filed Monday in Tompkins County Supreme Court by attorney Arthur Giacalone. It alleges the village's deer-remediation plan is arbitrary, capricious and irrational and does not fully comply with the state Environmental Quality Review Act, according to the petition.
The Cayuga Heights Village Board of Trustees and the New YorkState Department of Environmental Conservation are listed as respondents. The suit was filed on behalf of 12 local residents, eight of whom are residents of Cayuga Heights: Sherene Baugher, Eleanor Benisch, Ann Druyan, Dominick LaCapra, Jane Pedersen, Anne Serling, Catherine Stein, Mary Tabacchi, Charlene Temple, Mari Tiwari, Sandip Tiwari and Gabrielle Vehar.
"I think my clients have a very strong case because the requirements of SEQR really call for a much more thorough and objective review of the potential impacts of a project," said Giacalone, an environmental and land-use lawyer. "On top of that, we think the board disregarded facts and acted in an arbitrary and irrational way."
Village Mayor Kate Supron said papers had not been served, but she was aware of the lawsuit. Supron declined to comment because it is a legal matter, she said.
The board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution April 4 to begin the deer-remediation plan outlined in the environmental impact statement on the project. The village will begin with the surgical sterilization of 20 to 60 does within a two-year period, followed by the culling of the remainder of the herd.
Cayuga Heights resident Mary Tabacchi said she decided to be a part of the lawsuit because the village board left her with no other options.
"At board meetings, those who speak against the plan are more or less snickered at," she said. "We have tried every which way to convince the board this won't work and the deer will come back. Nobody wants to be involved in a lawsuit, but on the other hand we don't want to see animals killed."
Giacalone said the village fails to adequately describe their plan in the environmental impact statement. The specific number of deer that will be sterilized should be stated so the impact can be accurately determined.
"None of the specific details that you need to make an informed decision are part of their actual proposal," he said. "The purpose of SEQR is to help make informed decisions and help the public understand the impacts. Without specificity, you cannot know what the impacts are."
In addition, Giacalone said the board disregarded letters submitted from independent scientists who questioned the validity of killing the deer. He said the village did not gather information that was essential and disregarded other important information.
"The lack of a sound basis in reason for the deer-management plan and respondent Village Board's disregard of the facts are underscored by its failure to acknowledge, much less seriously assess, the significant adverse impact its deer-remediation plan, which could kill up to 90 percent of the Village's deer and leave the remaining 20 does unable to conceive," the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit asks for the court to annul the resolution that approved the deer-remediation program, annul the environmental review done by the village and order that the program cannot be implemented and no permits can be given until the village fully complies with SEQR.
Giacalone said he has been involved with two similar cases. In 1996, he was part of a case that challenged a bait-and-shoot program in Amherst. The judge nullified the program because of its failure to comply with SEQR, he said. In 1997, another judge nullified the program again, he added.
As of now, State Supreme Court Judge Phillip Rumsey will hear the case June 24 at 9:30 a.m. at the Tompkins County Courthouse, Giacalone said.
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