Cumberland council narrowly rejects deer feeding ban

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CUMBERLAND — A divided Town Council on Monday rejected a zoning ordinance change that would have banned deer feeding and baiting.

The matter was tabled last month until all seven councilors could be in attendance. They voted 4-3 against the proposal Monday, with Councilors Mike Perfetti, Bill Stiles, Ron Copp and George Turner in the majority; Councilors Jeff Porter, Steve Moriarty and Shirley Storey-King supported the failed measure.

The ordinance change, recommended by the Planning Board, was intended to reduce the presence of tick-carrying deer around homes.

Linda Emery, a proponent of the change whose husband has Lyme disease, brought attention to a Lyme disease surveillance report – found on the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention website – that says 970 “probable and confirmed” cases were reported last year to the CDC. Of this number, 276 cases were in Cumberland County.

Emery noted that a deer can carry about 100 ticks, each of which lay about 3,000 eggs. “Therefore, one deer in your yard can potentially deliver 300,000 ticks,” she said.

She said feeding deer disturbs the herd’s natural activity.

“Their digestion for the winter is altered naturally, so that they’re not really supposed to be supplemented,” Emery said.

Turner said the ban’s lack of enforceability gave him strong reservations.

“The fact is, we’re acknowledging that we’re going to create a law that’s unenforceable,” he said. “And it goes against every grain in my body to have government add another law that’s unenforceable.”

Turner advocated a strong educational approach to the matter, noting that “it’s ludicrous to be feeding deer.”

He said he’s heard reports of deer being in people’s yards, despite not being fed. “Part of the problem is, we have too many deer in some areas,” he said.

Moriarty conceded the ordinance would be difficult to enforce, but said it would not be impossible, since the change was intended more as “an exercise in education and deterrence.”

Stiles said “it has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction that the feeding of deer in Cumberland has led to an outbreak of Lyme disease in Cumberland.”

He added later that he does not condone the feeding of wild animals, but that he could not support the ordinance because it would take away more of people’s personal freedoms, “and it’s not necessary.”

Main Street zoning

Later in the meeting, the council heard a report from the Town Center Advisory Committee on a Main Street zoning change between Tuttle Road and Moss Side Cemetery.

Zoning would change from Medium Density Residential, which does not allow retail or commercial uses, to the Town Center District. The new district would permit homes, business and professional offices, personal services like hair salons, small markets, retail stores of no more than 2,000 square feet, cafes, health and fitness studios and residential-care facilities.

The non-residential uses now in that area of Main Street are grandfathered, except for Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union, which was authorized by a contract zone.

The Town Council voted unanimously to send the committee’s proposal to the Planning Board for review and recommendation. The board is expected to hear the matter at its Aug. 17 meeting.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.