Licking County News

Fouras land to remain in authorized gunfire zone

Pataskala City Council denies request to remove 175 acres

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

After several months of deliberations and debate by Pataskala City Council, Mayor Mike Compton last week cast the deciding vote to keep 175 acres on Summit Road in the city's legal firearms-discharge zone.

Hunting and recreational gunfire are permitted in the gun-discharge zone, most of which is in areas zoned as agricultural and rural residential -- about two-thirds of Pataskala.

Last year, resident Evangeline Fouras asked City Council to remove the land, part of which she owns. The rest is owned by her children through a trust set up almost two decades ago, according to recent City Council proceedings.

Fouras said she made the request because hunting and trespassing violations have occurred and the property is adjacent to land owned by the Licking Heights school district.

Pataskala City Council on Feb. 3 voted 3-3 on an ordinance to remove the property from the discharge zone, with Melissa Gibson, Bryan Lenzo and Pat Sagar voting in favor of it and Todd Barstow, Mike Fox and Tim Hickin voting against it.

Compton broke the tie by voting against the ordinance.

City Council President Dan Hayes was not present during the vote. He said at a previous meeting he would recuse himself because his brother worked with the Fouras family on a trust issue two years ago.

After the decision, Fouras indicated she was not giving up.

"You may have won the battle, but you haven't won the war," Fouras said at the end of the meeting.

She said she has not planned her next step.

Fox said the city's agriculture committee put more time into studying the Fouras application than any other.

He said there isn't a standard in writing but the "unwritten standard" has been to remove properties no longer being used for agricultural purposes from the discharge zone as residential or commercial development begins.

"That's what has prompted removal and I don't see any reason for that to change," Fox said. "It's a pretty good policy."

Barstow said it is unfortunate that the family has gone through such a long process but he is not convinced taking the property out of the discharge zone will prevent people from trespassing on the property.

Barstow said people who trespass or hunt illegally are not paying attention to the laws.

Hickin said he met with members of the Fouras family and they already have several other laws to keep people from trespassing on their property.

Lenzo said Fouras on Feb. 3 provided more documentation on her legal right to speak for the entire 175 acres and asked City Council to table the ordinance pending legal review of those documents. It was seconded by Sagar, but did not pass with only Lenzo and Sagar voting in favor.

Lenzo said he supports Fouras' request because the property is adjacent to school land, which is not in the firearms-discharge zone.

He also disagreed with the enforcement issue.

"I believe that adding the Fouras property as a non-discharge area to the map will provide sportsmen with an additional reference tool, as well as provide the (Fouras family) with an additional enforcement tool," he said. "It's their land and they have the constitutional right to do what they want or not do what they want on their property -- plain and simple."

Sagar said she agreed with Lenzo's comments and the Fouras family's property rights must be considered.

Gibson said even though she doesn't believe removing the property from the discharge zone will help solve Fouras' problems with trespassing, it makes sense to take it out because of its proximity to school property.

Compton said before breaking the tie that he did not believe removing the 175 acres from the discharge zone will help Fouras keep people off the property, calling it an "invisible security blanket."

The legislation to remove the land had been tabled multiple times after City Council members asked Fouras to provide more information on the property's ownership. About 160 acres of the property were transferred into a trust in 1996, according to previous information from Licking County Recorder Bryan Long.

Licking Heights Superintendent Philip Wagner had made a concurrent request to remove district-owned land from the discharge zone.

On Dec. 16, City Council unanimously approved an amendment to remove 41 district-owned acres, which included half the football stadium and one baseball field, according to district officials.

In other business Feb. 3, Pataskala City Council:

* Heard a report on the finance committee's study of funding for the 2014 Roadway Asset Management Plan. Barstow, the committee chairman, said the group is waiting on confirmation of funding to add roads to the RAMP, as discussed Jan. 27.

The city also is accepting requests for proposals from consultants interested in working with acting city administrator Nathan Coey in 2014.

Coey told the committee he would like to use a consultant to help him with such topics as design, engineering, economic development and municipal government.

Finance Director James Nicholson said the city has budgeted $60,000 that could be used for consulting services.

The requests for proposals are due Feb. 19.

* Unanimously approved spending $40,330 to build an equipment-storage building and a lean-to for such materials as mulch and stone at the service department's Mink Street facility.

Director of Public Services Benjamin King said both structures would be built by Post Frameworks.

The city was not required to bid the projects because they are under the bid threshold, but the city solicited three quotes for the project and chose the company with the lowest quote, he said.

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