Backyard chickens were a topic of discussion at the June 1 meeting of Courtenay council. Black Press photo

Courtenay councillor notes shift in views about food security

Courtenay council approved a motion from Wendy Morin to support urban agricultural opportunities and improved food security. Council directed staff to prepare a draft bylaw to allow small-scale commercial urban food production. This would include chickens, bees and farm stands on residential property. Staff is also to consult with Comox to possibly align with its proposed urban agriculture policy.

Morin said many people have brought up the issue, which has been more prominent since the onset of the coronavirus.

“I do believe this is something that local folks want,” she said at the June 1 meeting.

Doug Hillian recalls a survey conducted 10 years ago indicated most residents opposed the issue of food security.

“I think the community has shifted substantially during that time,” he said, adding the issue has become significant across Canada in terms of the impact on supply chains during the coronavirus pandemic. “I think it’s timely that councillor Morin brings this forward.”

Hillian also recalls a significant difference between West and East Courtenay concerning backyard chickens.

Manno Theos likes the gardening component, but worries that backyard chickens will exacerbate rat infestations, especially in West Courtenay. He is also concerned that staff would be inundated with bylaw enforcement issues.

“I think it’s the wrong direction to go,” he said. “After witnessing how challenging it is to have these backyard chickens from people that don’t have experience doing this, I think we have to be really cautious when we’re walking down this road.”

Morin noted that rats exist in neighbourhoods regardless of chickens. She also notes that Cumberland, as well as large cities such as Victoria, have not received bylaw complaints about chickens.

Melanie McCollum feels this is an opportune time to have the discussion, considering the public shift in the sense of food security.

Kus-kus-sum

With the exception of Theos, council approved a motion from Hillian to pay a $58,580.17 grant to Project Watershed to be applied to the 2020 property taxes on the Kus-kus-sum lands at 1901 Comox Rd. The money would come from gaming funds. Hillian notes the City supports a land partnership with K’omoks First Nation and Project Watershed to restore the former Field Sawmill site.

“This is going to be a legacy for this community for many years to come,” he said. “It’s been a long fundraising campaign that has had tremendous support from the community. It’s very close to fruition. This would enable the next step to be realized.”

Hillian said the community has been raising money, while the B.C. government contributed $1 million. He added that COVID-19 has left “several overtures made to the federal government” in limbo. Project Watershed can either offer money raised so far to landowner Interfor, or seek an extension to the June 19 fundraising deadline.

“There’s still a huge amount of optimism that the deal will be secured in the next year,” Hillian said.

Theos recalls Project Watershed saying the City would not need to step up financially.

“I don’t understand this move at this time,” Theos said, noting the current stress of homeowners and businesses, and the closure of the casino. “I think this is not the right time to dip into revenue that is not even there.”

6th Street Bridge?

If Courtenay council decides to proceed with a bridge at 6th Street, City staff recommends construction happens in 2022, after rehabilitation of the Fifth Street Bridge is complete. Construction is estimated to cost around $4 million, and would be expected to last five to seven months.

A multi-use bridge at 6th would provide a cycling and pedestrian connection between downtown and Simms Park, and to a future cycling network along 6th Street and Anderton Avenue, the Courtenay Riverway Trail, and the Lewis Park pathway connection to the Lewis Centre.

The City has been approved for grant funding for an options analysis. The grant will fund about half the study, or $29,300.

Bridge options include a pre-engineering pedestrian truss bridge (bowstring), with an estimated cost of $3-$3.1 million, a modular panel ($3.2-$3.335 million), a network arch ($3.75-$3.95 million) and cable-stayed ($3.9-$4.1 million). An evaluation scored the bowstring highest in terms of construction, esthetic value, pedestrian/cyclist comfort, environmental impact, capital cost and lifecycle considerations.

Watershed request

Council approved a $5,000 request from the Millard-Piercy Watershed Stewards towards a proposed project to update a fish habitat assessment of the Piercy Creek watershed north of the CV Parkway. The group has applied for $12,636 from the Pacific Salmon Foundation. The total project cost is estimated at $32,800.

Deputy CAO Trevor Kushner lauded the pro bono efforts of the group, which provides valuable data that informs the City’s modelling and downstream infrastructure.

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