Nearly 200 people filled the Ann Arbor City Council chambers Thursday evening as the body heard community input on the controversial city deer cull slated for January. After public comments, most of which railed against the plans, the council voted in two 10-1 votes to move forward with plans for the cull.
The council also approved a resolution to further investigate nuisance complaints at an off-campus fraternity house.
Carrying out the cull was contingent on council passing two additional resolutions. The first will temporarily suspend the discharge of firearms on public lands and the second approves an agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The service will provide sharpshooters to kill 100 deer at a cost of about $35,000. Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor was the sole dissenting vote on both resolutions.
In August, City Council voted to establish a deer management program designed to reduce the Ann Arbor deer population — both to decrease nuisance caused by a well-stocked deer population and to support biological diversity. The city plans to hire sharpshooters to kill 100 deer with firearms to control the population within the city limits.
At Thursday’s council meeting, about 50 Ann Arbor residents spoke in opposition to the deer cull. Many Ann Arbor residents said they were shocked to hear the city would implement such a program and raised concerns about the safety of local residents and the moral considerations behind a cull.
“I was always in awe of this cultural and intellectual mecca,” Ann Arbor resident Kim Johnson told the council. “Imagine my shock and disbelief that this community is planning to kill deer right in the middle of its city. What happened to seeking creative, non-violent solutions? Where are the best and brightest now?”
Others were concerned about research showing that deer culling proved ineffective in neighboring towns, such as Jackson. Many urged the council to wait on implementing the deer cull until further research is conducted, as the issue isn’t an emergency.
“Culling in urban environments offers precious little in the terms of a short-term solution, and is in the meantime tearing our community apart,” Ann Arbor resident Karen Anderson said.
However, not all were opposed to the implementation of culling. A few long-time residents said they have noticed a growth in deer population compared to previous decades and supported efforts to curb the population.
“I am in favor of the shooting of deer within city limits, even expanding the limits,” Ann Arbor resident Gordon Roberts said. “If you go below the breakeven point, you are wasting time and effort. I support anything we can do to get rid of as many deer as possible.”
Another issue debated Thursday: investigation of noise complaints directed at the University’s chapter of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at 920 Baldwin Ave. Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) proposed a resolution Thursday asking the city attorney to investigate the house and determine possible methods for handling any nuisance. The resolution was ultimately passed.
Some local residents said Thursday they were concerned about the loud nature of the fraternity in what is primarily a residential neighborhood.
“When you move into a residential neighborhood, you enter into a community contract, but the fraternity brothers seem to ignore that,” said Merton Shill, Ann Arbor resident and Alpha Sigma Phi neighbor. “We had to call the police five times in the past three weeks just to get some sleep at night. Why is it that these people find it so hard to follow the law?”
Fraternity president Tom Allen, a Public Policy junior, defended the fraternity at council. Allen called on the council to halt the city’s investigation into their house, claiming it would set an unfeasible precedence for the future, and place a large burden on city employees.
“We make different kinds of headlines than other fraternities do; we make a difference on campus,” Allen said. “I hope this shows that we are just good students, trying to coexist with the neighbors next door.”