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Salmon Arm council balks on bylaw exemptions for backyard chickens

Council suggests working through official community plan review process
A letter from a Salmon Arm couple sparked conversation about bylaw exemptions for backyard chickens at the city council meeting of Feb. 12, 2024. (PQB News file photo)

City council had no appetite to consider a bylaw exemption to allow a Salmon Arm couple to have a few chickens in their backyard.

At its Feb. 12 meeting, council received a letter from a resident who had spoken with city staff to see if it was possible to get an exemption to Bylaw 2398, which regulates the keeping of “certain animals,” and permits up to 10 “domestic fowl, turkeys, geese, ducks or rabbits, or a combination thereof…” on properties greater than .2 hectares (half an acre) but less than .4 ha (one acre).

The letter’s writer said he and his spouse were directed to reach out to city council about an exemption, as their property is .321 acres. He explained their property is bordered on two sides by lots larger than an acre, while the acreage directly behind their property has chickens.

“The chicken coup would be located on the rear of our property by the acreage that currently has chickens, and would not be visible from the street or our neighbour to the north…,” reads the letter. “We believe the chickens would have a positive impact on our property as they assist in fertilizing our garden space, consume most of our food and plant scraps and act as a form of pest control.”

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren said this has come up a number of times and asked if there was a way for homeowners to apply for a bylaw exemption. Director of planning and community services Gary Buxton said he was no not aware of anything in the bylaw that provides for a process to pursue exceptions.

“The only mechanism I can think of is a site-by-site amendment to the bylaw,” said Buxton.

Lindgren then asked about possibly amending the bylaw to include a more efficient process.

Coun Louise Wallace Richmond, however, noted the city is in the process of updating its official community plan.

“I feel this could be part of that,” said Wallace Richmond. “The residents would be encouraged to share that want for the new OCP…”

Wallace Richmond also pointed out that council recently directed staff to begin work that would lead to the creation of a Food and Urban Agriculture Plan, with a focus on food security.

“To my mind, this is not right now but maybe later, and I wouldn’t be comfortable setting up a separate process… knowing that there are two initiatives underway that may or may not address this in the medium-term future,” said Wallace Richmond.

Coun. Kevin Flynn said he didn’t want to put any more work on the city’s planning department, and that he thinks “our bylaw is perfect the way it is.

“I will wait until the community provides their input, but I have no desire to set up a committee or handle this prematurely because of a letter,” said Flynn.

Lindgren said she’s comfortable waiting for a sweeping change that may or may not happen through the OCP process, “but I would also be comfortable with staff hearing requests from individual homeowners – this one in particular, where there are sort of extenuating circumstances. I mean, they live next to a chicken farm,” said Lindgren. “When it makes sense like that, they would be OK to approach staff and ask for an exemption, and I’d like to know if there’s a process for that and if we need to go one site at a time.

“This isn’t the first letter, this isn’t going to be the last letter. Food security will demand that this change.”

Mayor Alan Harrison said he would share with the couple council’s suggestions that the OCP review and the creation of Food and Urban Agriculture Plan are avenues they can work through.

Read more: Salmon Arm council gets ball rolling on food security plan

Read more: Cozy coops: How Okanagan backyard farmers keep their chickens warm in the winter

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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