It's man vs. deer, it seems, in Southampton Village, where legislation aims to keep deer from destroying expensive landscaping.
Up for discussion at the Southampton Village Board meeting Thursday was a proposed law that would give homeowners the option of erecting fencing in their front yards in order to keep the deer population — which admittedly has become problematic, noted Mayor Mark Epley — at bay.
Of concern is the aesthetic impact front-yard fencing could have on neighborhoods, particularly those with lots that are 1 acre or less. Currently, the law allows for 4-foot front yard fencing and 6-foot side and rear fencing on properties. That's not high enough, say deer-control experts, to stop the agile animals from feasting on vegetation in gardens and plantings.
Larger lots in the village, Trustee Bonnie Cannon said, are less of a concern. "Most properties 1 acre or more in the village already have hedging, plantings and screenings in their front yards," she said, explaining that deer fencing can be easily disguised within the properties' landscaping.
Village residents have stepped up complaints in recent months to the Village Board, saying that the overpopulation and voracious feeding habits of deer in the area have cost them thousands of dollars in destroyed vegetation, flower beds and lawns.
The mayor and trustees said Thursday that they are working with the village's Planning Board and Architectural Review Board to amend local zoning code so that the higher, 8-foot fencing would be permitted even on smaller lots. Concerns about how the village's streetscape would be affected by high fencing in front yards were addressed by the board Thursday.
The deer population in Southampton Village has become such a nuisance, according to some residents, that there is also talk of sterilizing the animals, a strategy that Epley called "very complicated," and a "long process." Village Administrator Stephen Funsch said permitting deer hunting in the area could be a way to control the population but that a firearm used for hunting, by law, cannot be discharged closer than 500 feet from residential housing. "Obviously we have very few homes in the village with that amount of open space," he said.
If the law passes after being submitted for public discussion, the 8-foot deer fencing code amendment will require residents seeking a permit to construct a polypropylene-type fence — "It's pretty much invisible," Funsch said — and ornamental plantings around the fencing will be required.
Keeping the deer from their feeding grounds, which in this case are the backyards and front yards of village neighborhoods, will only "bring them all into the town," commented resident Susan Stevenson.
Funsch agreed the problem is overall a "tough one to solve."
Village Attorney Rick DePetris said he modeled the draft legislation after North Haven Village's existing deer fencing law.