WESTFORD -- Selectmen are aiming to form a hunting policy committee in the next several weeks to resolve the town's policies and procedures on the activity once and for all.

This season, hunting has become a hot topic as residents in the Buck Board Drive area filled the Board of Selectmen's meeting room to protest one resident receiving a bow hunting area for town-owned land. Abutters to that area close to Dana and Buck Board Drive said they are worried about children's safety. They asked why a local hunter needed the space when there are already designated hunting areas in town, including the Westford Sportsmen's Club.

Selectmen Kelly Ross and Valerie Wormell worked together to create a charge for a nine-person committee when the board realized it was a necessity after many in the community became angry over their issuing of the permit. The local bow hunter -- Shawn Girard -- eventually received the permit for the season, but selectmen picked which days the permit would apply with limited discussion. The permit was issued in a 4 to 1 vote in November, with Ross standing opposed because he believed the board was making a rushed decision.

Ross and Wormell have crafted a mission for the committee, which will strive to have an even number of hunters and "non-hunters" to update current policies.

"What we have now is a very inconsistent case of polices and in the case of selectmen, unknowns," Wormell told selectmen Tuesday night. "I had a number of people contact me and say, 'You're wrong. This is the policy. It's been this way for many, many years.'"

The committee will work to update town policies Wormell said for years have just been based on "tradition." The charge reads members will have "emphasis placed on balancing hunting with public safety and other needs" and will work to have a recommendation for selectmen by Sept. 1, 2014, before hunting season starts then.

Town Manager Jodi Ross said the Board of Health will also be on-call to weigh in, when one resident asked how the town will respond if the committee votes to ban hunting entirely and the deer-tick population rises. The state Department of Fish and Game has stated hunting is one of Massachusetts' primary ways of limiting lyme disease exposure, and selectmen agreed the health department would be available to consult with members.

Wormell said members of an abutting neighborhood in Chelmsford also had interest in joining the committee, though other selectmen said they would prefer to see residents fill the available seats, if possible.

"We want (committee members) to investigate current policies and to uncover them, because these are things that are not written down," Wormell said. "They've been passed down."

Applications to apply for the Hunting Policy Committee will be available at Town Hall likely until the end of January or early February, Selectmen Chairman Andrea Peraner-Sweet said.

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