After extensive review and consultation going back-and-forth on the issue, Area G of the RDEK has decided to move forward with the adoption of bylaws to regulate fencing, chickens and bees in the electoral district.
The new bylaw allows residents to own backyard chickens on a parcel of land zoned as a single-family residential use, for the purpose of egg production. The new bylaw stipulates that the chicken must be a hen, not a rooster, with the maximum number of hens kept on any parcel of land within the electoral area to be six.
Area G director Gerry Wilkie said he doesn’t anticipate that there will be a large number of residents taking advantage of the new bylaw but it does represent an opportunity for locals to engage in local food production.
“I think for those people who are interested in food security and local food production on a small scale, family education but also simply knowing that some people wish to produce their own food,” he said. “I think there are people that prefer to produce their own food and of course eggs are a staple for a lot of people.”
It was Wilkie in fact who started the movement to backyard agriculture, approaching the RDEK board several years ago in hopes of bringing backyard chickens and bees to the Columbia Valley. At first, his idea was met with dissent after being voted down by the RDEK board of directors in June 2016 by margin of 10 to five. A month later however, the Area G was afforded another chance to collect public opinion on the idea with Wilkie being the driving force behind the second chance.
The RDEK had previously held public meetings on the idea in June but these were not well attended. Following that, they conducted an online poll, receiving 200 responses, finding that 53 per cent of people were in support of backyard chickens, 42 per cent not in favour and four per cent uncertain. Wilkie argued at the time that the survey was illegitimate because it did not differentiate between Area F and G which have distinct differences.
“It’s just a different philosophy from that end of the valley (Area F) to ours (Area G),” he said to the Echo at the time.
When the RDEK focused specifically on Area G, asking again for comments, Wilkie said they heard from as many as 50 people with 80 per cent of them being in favour of backyard chickens and bees.
Andrew McLeod, planning and development services manager for the RDEK, said he agreed that there were large differences in the makeup of the two electoral areas, which is why Area F elected not to follow-suit with the bylaw amendment.
“Throughout the process there were some people who expressed concern about the proposals for backyard chickens and bees and questioned whether it was necessary,” he said, noting that the opposite was true when they examined public opinion in Area G which has a more rural nature to the area. “There are more full time residents in Area G as opposed to Fairmont and Windermere where there’s a larger percentage of out of town property owners and people that are there to enjoy their property for the weekend as opposed to year round.”
The bylaw was first drafted in early November, going to first reading on November 4th, before it was read a third time on December 2nd and approved by the Ministry of Transportation on December 14th.
Although it may not be used by everyone in the electoral area, Wilkie said he’s happy residents will be able to get cracking on backyard agriculture.