A proposed ban on leghold animal traps and a new law to restrict the location of adult entertainment stores attracted the most comment at a Howard County Council public hearing last night, though a measure that would move a sensitive planning boundary drew strong opposition from the Rouse Co.
County trappers and farmers - including the brother of a councilman - turned out to strongly oppose a ban on leghold traps in a revised animal control ordinance supported by the county police and Deborah M. Baracco, the animal control administrator.
Several witnesses testified in favor of stricter rules governing the locations of adult entertainment stores than proposed in a new version of a 5-year-old law struck down by the state's highest court.
Last night's public hearing precedes the final summer legislative session, scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday; the council does not meet in August.
An animal control reform bill was considered in October 2002, but a vote was put off over concerns that the measure needed more time for review.
If approved this year, the revised bill would make it easier to remove dangerous or potentially dangerous animals, but it does not target any particular species. It would also ban leghold traps, increase fines for violations and strengthen county animal control officers' power to enforce orders for more secure confinements.
Along with county Police Chief Wayne Livesay, Ann Selnick, president of Animal Advocates of Howard County, testified in favor of the trap ban.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine opposition to [banning] leghold traps would come forward," Selnick said, calling them "cruel and indiscriminate" and inhumane.
But five witnesses, including Cody Kittleman, a farmer and the brother of Republican Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, said the traps are not cruel, normally don't hurt the animals caught and are vital to controlling foxes, coyotes and other small animals.
After the hearing, he retrieved a 6-inch-diameter, round metal fox trap and sprung it around his fingers to show a reporter that it would not hurt.
Roy Stanley, a Frederick County resident who said he is a member of the Maryland Fur Trappers Association, said leghold traps are "a necessary wildlife management tool.
Meanwhile, discomfort was the prime feeling expressed by witnesses who urged a stronger adult entertainment law.
"It's a burden to me to see the Pack Shack [a U.S. 40 adult book and video store] a half-mile from our county government," said John Baronas of Ellicott City. "It's shameful that we have it on our main street."
Kirk Baras of Jessup said the new law is too lax and should allow fewer possible store locations. Said Larry Clairmont of Elkridge, "This type of activity does damage our youth."
Attorneys for Pack Shack successfully challenged the county's first zoning restrictions on adult entertainment stores, leaving the county liable for legal fees up to $200,000. The first law was too limiting, Maryland's Court of Appeals ruled, and therefore an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech.
The new version would allow up to 101 spots for such stores, instead of the 12 to 23 locations planners estimated the last law permitted. Councilman Ken Ulman, a West Columbia Democrat, said, "We're trying to limit them to as few sites as we can get away with."
Dennis Miller, Rouse Co. vice president and general manager, said a bill that would move a planning boundary south from Columbia to the Middle Patuxent River would "set a very dangerous precedent," because it would move a line to help a specific development. The bill, sponsored by east Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes, "would create an unpredictable regulatory environment," he said, and work against county growth control laws.
Rakes wants to move the line to help Pentecostal Church of God sell a 28-acre tract south of Route 32 along the west side of U.S. 29 for development. Moving the line would also help another townhouse/commercial project at Route 32 and Cedar Lane.