Proposed projectile ordinance causes public stir

Council decides to table controversial measure to silence gunfire

BURTON — Following council discussion two weeks ago regarding a resident on Belsay Road who allegedly provokes his neighbors with loud trucks, music, fireworks and the firing off guns on his property at all hours of the night, an ordinance was to be introduced Sept. 21 to regulate the discharge of firearms within the city limits.

When word of the ordinance got out to the public last week, an outpouring of public sentiment against the measure brought a crowd to city hall Monday night to rally against its passage.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to table the ordinance and explore other ways of handling the problems with the homeowner on Belsay Road between Davison Road and Potter Road.

A number of letters against the proposed ordinance were read into the record Monday night after some council members met with residents in the parking lot at city hall. The council chambers are still off-limits to the public due to COVID-19 so an impromptu meeting outside the building was the only way the group could be heard.

One resident who logged into the city’s Webex meeting online spoke and asked the city council to consider other ways of dealing with the loud neighbor on Belsay Road.

“I’d like you to keep in mind…Burton is a unique city in that we have a lot of properties, including mine, that have a significant amount of acreage where we can shoot safely and respectfully with our neighbors,” said resident Ben Graham. “I have 16 acres personally. Keep that in mind when you’re looking at this ordinance again in the future. I know there have been some complaints with other people, specifically a gentlemen on north Belsay Road, and to me that sounds like he’s already violating several of the ordinances that are already on the books so I don’t think changing this one is going to affect him at all. It’s a law enforcement issues, he needs to be fined and taken to jail.”

Resident Karen Kellogg wrote to the council and said she is against the ordinance to ban the discharge of firearms and pneumatic weapons I the city

“I would like to see enforcement of our current laws, and no new ordinance on the subject,” she said.

Resident Tyler Berry, who owns land in Burton, said he hunts in the city for food.

“It’s a way of life,” said Berry in a letter to the council. “It’s absurd, to say the least, this is still a small, semi-rural community regardless of how many subdivisions get added. It is my right to hunt and harvest game on my land or my family’s land. That will not be taken from me. There is no solid basis for this ordinance.”

Resident Anderson Pettigrew said he opposed the ordinance, drafted by Vice President Greg Fenner, and he felt it was being pushed through council approval at a time when people are unable to be at council meetings.

“This is just an anti-weapon push during unfortunate times,” said Pettigrew in his letter. “(The council) should use this time as a city for Burton to come together and be there for the citizens rather than to take away their rights.”

Resident Andrea Culvert said he supports the ordinance because she lives near people who discharge firearms on their property and at times, she said she keeps her children indoors because she fears they may be struck by a stray bullet.

If approved, the ordinance would have restricted the discharge of firearms, pellet guns and hunting bows within the city limits

Councilman Danny Wells thanked residents for speaking out about the ordinance and he assured residents the council was not trying to hide anything from the public.

Fenner said he too wanted the public to know the council did not attempt to get anything past the community in bringing up the ordinance.

“One thing that is abundantly clear tonight is method we try to get this information to the residents, via our website, just isn’t cutting it,” said Fenner. “Something we’ve talked about in the past is an official city Facebook page. I’ve been in favor of a city Facebook page that is officially run with this information on that to avoid this appearance of cloak and dagger.

“We went through the protocol to put these protocols out to the public to have it attended. There was nothing subversive going on here.”

Councilman Tom Martinbianco said he was not happy with some of the conversation surrounding the council’s decision to table the ordinance.

“We didn’t do anything behind the scenes,” he said. “That’s nothing I’d ever be happy with and I don’t like being accused of that. Everything here is on ‘front street’. If someone is accusing me of something like that, that’s not me and that’s not anything any of my colleagues would do.”

He said further he thought tabling the ordinance indefinitely was a “smart move” and not just a political move. Martinbianco said he thinks the city council may need a commission to explore the matter further – one that includes resident input.