A metal detecting ordinance recently approved by O’Fallon City Council is now being reconsidered.
The previous ordinance, approved on April 11, called for new regulations regarding the use of recreational metal detectors in the city's parks, including restricted areas and a requirement to turn over their finds to the city.
Hobbyist metal detectors expressed disagreement with the new O'Fallon law on O’Fallon Patch and to their council members.
Ward 2 Councilman Jim Pepper said he received emails from hobbyists across the country, leading him to take a second look and sponsor a revision bill.
“I didn’t realize how wide spread this hobby was until after the meeting,” Pepper said Thursday.
Among the revisions, Pepper suggested having the parks department create a permitting process for metal detecting, defining non-artifact items and allowing for items to be returned to the finder if the Historic Preservation Commission deems them not historically significant.
“In my opinion, this was a bad bill from the start,” Pepper added. “How arrogant and self-absorbed? I lose a ring or a locket in the grass, I can’t find it, I leave the area, and according to this wording, it belongs to the city.”
Pepper added he, along with other council members, were lead to believe the recommendations came from the O’Fallon Parks Board.
At Thursday’s meeting, Pepper read an email from O’Fallon Parks Board President Patrick Breyne, that said the board made some suggestions, none of which required items found to during metal detection to be returned to the city.
City Attorney Kevin O’Keefe said he advised Parks Board Director Cindy Springer, that any items found become the property of the city. He said this concept is common law and that property abandoned on real property becomes the property of that owner.
“If we rely on people picking it up and we don’t even know about it, we can’t get it returned,” O Keefe said, adding that if the city asserts its rights as the property owner, they can move forward with returning items to rightful owners.
On Thursday, the O’Fallon City Council voted 9-1 to reconsider the ordinance. Gardner opposed reconsidering the bill.
Ward 3 Councilman John Haman then made a motion to table the bill and place it on the agenda for the next workshop for more discussion. Council voted 9-1 to table to the bill. Pepper opposed the tabling of the bill.
After the vote, Ward 4 Councilman Bob Howell said he would like to discuss making a policy issue rather than an ordinance.
The next O'Fallon City Council workshop is Thursday, May 9 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.