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Deer hunts could be coming to St. Louis County parks, if county executive approves

Deer hunts could be coming to St. Louis County parks, if county executive approves

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Father deer

An antlered white tail deer strolls safely along property near Jefferson Barracks County Park where hunting isn't allowed. 

Updated at 12:48 p.m. to reflect changes to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund bill.

CLAYTON — The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow archery deer hunts in county parks, but County Executive Sam Page has not decided whether he will sign it.

The council also voted to advance to a final vote next week a bill that would create a trust fund for affordable housing. The bill has been the subject of several public hearings over the past several months.

And the council voted unanimously on several of the county’s roughly $600 million budget for 2020, in which most departments will take a slight funding cut. All of the budget is expected to pass at the council’s last meeting of the year next week. Council members remarked on having finished the budget process without needing all of December as it had during previous years’ budget battles with former County Executive Steve Stenger.

The vote on the deer hunting bill was 5-2, with Rita Heard Days, D-1st District, and Rochelle Walton Gray, D-4th District, in dissent. Several members of the public spoke out against the bill, calling it cruel to animals and potentially dangerous to humans.

Doug Moore, a spokesman for Page, said the county executive had not decided whether to sign it.

The proposal, by council members Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, and Mark Harder, R-7th District, would allow the state Department of Conservation to hold archery hunts of deer at county parks. Each scheduled hunt would still be subject to county approval.

A similar measure failed earlier this year, but the two council members, who represent most of west St. Louis County, said deer overpopulation has become a greater problem since then, and the Audubon Society said the deer’s grazing has undermined its efforts to conserve trees and shrubs.

The affordable housing bill had a 4-3 vote along party lines with the four Democrats carrying the vote.

The legislation, sponsored by Lisa Clancy, D-5th District, and co-sponsored by Walton Gray, would create a trust fund to help increase the availability of safe and inexpensive housing in St. Louis County. The fund would initially be funded by a tax on medical marijuana but could later be funded by other sources. That was one of the recommendations from community leaders, residents and the county’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund Task Force on how to make the county more accessible for vulnerable populations.

The bill that had been under consideration by the council would have expand the county’s Housing Resources Commission — and greatly increased the importance of the obscure board — by placing it in charge of distributing all funds for housing received by the county from any source, not just the trust fund.

Clancy had said empowering the board would have helped organize decisions about how to spend money on housing. But that plan ran into opposition within the county government, and she dropped it from her bill. Under the current proposal, the commission would only direct spending from the Homeless Assistance Program and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

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