Hunting within Innisfil’s urban communities will likely be banned next month if council updates its 54-year-old firearms bylaw.
Councillors are poised to pass a new bylaw, which would outlaw the use of firearms and hunting bows within Alcona, Stroud, Cookstown, Churchill, Lefroy/Belle Ewart, Gilford, Fennels Corners, Innisfil Heights, St. Paul’s and sections of Big Bay Point.
The new bylaw would also increase safety zones from 100 metres to 200 metres around public buildings within rural areas, such as Innisfil Central Public School on Conc. 5.
The outdated bylaw was first raised in May 2008 by development lawyer Marvin Geist, who wanted council to ban hunting within Leonard’s Wetlands in north Alcona.
If hunting were banned in the wetlands it could end its “provincial significance” status.
The Ministry of Natural Resources uses a scoring system to determine provincial significance, with a threshold of 600 points. The Leonard’s Beach Wetland scored 618, with 20 points given for hunting.
If hunting were banned, developers who own land in the wetlands could be given more leeway to encroach on the area.
But planning director Robert McAuley told council last week safety was the primary goal of the proposed bylaw not whether it would make development easier.
“We looked at the question of updating the bylaw, not whether the MNR would reduce the wetland significance,” McAuley said. “We’ve steered clear of that issue because it is not essential to this bylaw.”
When council debated the bylaw last summer, residents who live near Leonard’s Wetlands said they were more concerned about development than hunters in the area.
Leslie Street Deborah McGrath, whose home backs onto the wetland, told the Journal last October that hunters have never bothered her.
“I’ve never seen anyone, it’s never been a concern for us,” she said. “The greater concern we have is maintaining the value of the wetland. The developers want to encroach on it. This is a very transparent end run to push the development through.”
However, Geist has argued that the development issue is being “blown out of proportion.”
“You still can’t build on wetlands. The town won’t let you, the Conservation Authority won’t let you, the County won’t let you and the province won’t let you.”
Council is expected to consider the updated bylaw at its May 6 meeting.