Marlboro Firearms Amendment Pulled After Hunting Community Protests
The amendment was a response to a stray bullet smashing a window of a Morganville resident's home.
Imagine hearing gunshots around your home every day during hunting season. Now, imagine one of those bullets crashing through the bathroom window of your home.
When Marlboro Township officials heard the story of a bullet, or pellet, crashing through the bathroom window of Morganville resident Tricia Garofalo, council members created an amendment to the firearms ordinance with stricter hunting guidelines in the township.
Garofalo said she and her husband were getting their children ready for school when a bullet or pellet, not yet identified in type by the Marlboro Police Department, broke through her bathroom window and landed in her bathtub.
"My main concern is the safety of my children," Garofalo said. "I could have been in that bathtub bathing one of my children."
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Garofalo's home borders the Forest Green Park Cemetery near Amboy Road in Morganville, where police said cemetery owners allow hunting on the property to control the wildlife population.
In response, an amendment to an existing Marlboro Township firearms ordinance widened the area around building structures which hunting is allowed.
Garofalo and her neighbors approached Town Council last Thursday, concerned about the amount of gun shots they hear early in the morning and sometimes throughout the day during hunting season.
"When it literally hits home, that is when we really got nervous about it," Garofalo said. "I don't think anybody should have their rights taken away...I am against my husband or my children getting hurt, or my children not having me or my husband around."
Dozens of hunters turned up at last Thursday night's Town Council meeting to voice their own opinions on the matter, only to find that the council had already pulled the amendment from the agenda.
The current firearms ordinance sets hunting back 450 feet from any dwelling, and bans hunting on property less than five acres. The amendment looked to only allow hunting on property 25 acres or larger and set back 1,500 feet from a border, rather than a dwelling.
Anthony Mauro, Chairman of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, said this could unintentionally ban hunting in the township.
"How do you see a border? You can see a dwelling," Mauro said. "It becomes extremely difficult to enforce, and the unintended effect would be to ban hunting."
Mauro said the proposed restrictions would not only be difficult to enforce, but could rule out hunting on the majority of currently huntable land in Marlboro.
"This seems to be stepping on a state law...We appreciate trying to ensure safety, but this is trampling on liberties and rights in order to do this."
The Monmouth County Deer Management Program regulates hunting in the county, including by issuing permits, and looks to hunting on county property as a way to control a booming deer population in the area .
"We are not out there hunting just because we want to, we are rally seriously trying to manage the deer population," said Karen Livingstone, Public Information Officer for the Monmouth County Parks System.
Livingstone said that since hunting was implemented, the Deer Management branch of the parks system as seen white-tailed deer population decrease and level off.
But residents near hunting grounds feel safety and quality of life is at risk.
"We feel like firearms should be be going off [at the cemetery] when it could endanger us," said Matthew Granese, a neighbor of Garofalo. "And it has been proven that it can go right through a window and into a home. Does my 5-year-old need to be laid out by a bullet?"
Council President Jeff Cantor said he believes it is unlikely that from 450 feet or more, which are the current guidelines, someone could have reached a window.
"If they are following the law, a shotgun shell or buck shot should never reach your development," Cantor said. "You don't want to punish everybody because one person is being stupid."
Cantor added that the cemetery owners and the Marlboro Police Department should look into other ways to control deer and geese populations on the property, including bow hunting.
The cemetery is a 15 acre or more property, more than 10 acres larger than current hunting restrictions mandate in the township.
Captain Bart Lombardo said the department has been working with the property owners, who have entertained different ways of controlling wildlife.
Pierre Van Mater, a farmer in Marlboro said he understands safety restrictions, but hunting is important to his business and the business of farmers like him.
"The farm owners do need these hunters," he said. "Without these other hunters, the land owners themselves certainly can't control the wildlife as it is now."
Mayor Jon Hornik requested a police department report of any stray bullet instances in the township, so the council and administration could have a better idea of how to amend the existing hunting guidelines.
Garofalo said, "It really just takes that one time, and I'm not willing to take that chance or live in an area that allows that chance."