Comox council heard both sides of a proposed urban agriculture bylaw from town residents during a public hearing which looked at backyard chickens and urban produce stands.
At the Nov.3 heard hearing which was held both in-person at the d’Esterre Centre and via Zoom, members of the public shared their opinions on both sides of the bylaw, with the focus on urban hen keeping.
In September, council passed second reading of Comox zoning amendment bylaw 1987 that could see residents with a minimum lot size of 1,500 m2 be allowed up to six hens on their property.
The bylaw also includes urban produce production and produce stands.
Cheryl Blacklock of Comox was one of three people who spoke against the bylaw and noted she supports the idea of urban agriculture and produce stands, and believes the bylaw should be separated from that of urban hen raising.
“I think it’s a romantic idea … (but) there are too many issues associated with it.”
She explained for those wanting to raise hens or animals, there are rural areas within the Comox Valley Regional District, or even within Cumberland or Courtenay, where chickens are allowed.
“It seems like the farmers and farming community would know what they’re doing,” she said.
“In my neighbourhood I have chickens and three ducks next to me and I heard the noise all summer – all day, every day that’s all you hear. There are issues with smells and chickens escaping into other neighbouring yards. I had contact with the town but our bylaw enforcement is lacking. It’s based on a complaint-driven system; it’s so backlogged.”
Linda Meyers agreed with Blacklock and listed a variety of points as to why she doesn’t believe backyard hens are a good idea: that they belong outside of urban settings; they attract mice, rats and raccoons, they make noise and that their manure will produce strong smells.
“Please council members, stop this nonsense.”
Resident Dianna Talbot was one of eight who spoke in favour of urban hen keeping and one of many who asked the town to consider reducing the lot size down from 1,500 m2.
She noted by having a significantly large lot size, that the ability to have backyards chickens effectively excludes the majority of Comox residents.
“It’s devoid of any rational foundation … (you should) unlink wealth as a requirement to own hens in Comox. Privileging a few wealthy residents with the right to keep hens while the majority of folks are not allowed to is highly inequitable.”
Talbot suggested proceeding with the bylaw but allowing all single-family residential lots the ability to have hens by scaling flock size to lot size.
New Comox resident Aleia Cukor who is a horticulturist said like many things, hen keeping is the next step in urban food sustainability and can be done responsibly with education.
“I do believe that with the proper education … we can be tolerant together. We can have the freedom and ability to be resilient, to be resourceful.”
The bylaw will return to council for further discussion and a vote on third reading.
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