Residents of Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area G will get another formal chance to voice their opinions on backyard chickens after all, after the RDEK board of directors at its most recent meeting reversed an earlier decision.
At the Friday, July 8th meeting, the RDEK directors unanimously approved a motion put forward by Area G director Gerry Wilkie that bylaw amendments be prepared by staff to regulate backyard chickens on single family residential parcel smaller than an acre in Area G only (bylaws are already in place allowing backyard chickens on single family residential lots larger than one acre in both Area G and Area F — backyard chickens are also already allowed in the District of Invermere).
“I simply made my case that I thought the board maybe didn’t understand how Edgewater and Wilmer are communities that are thoroughly rural in character and I pointed out that the idea of using what they call temporary use permits for people who might want to keep backyard chickens would involved fairly extensive capital outlay,” RDEK Area G director Gerry Wilkietold The Echo. “I just asked them to reconsider and they did. It was as simple as that.”
Previously, at the Friday, June 10th meeting, the RDEK directors voted 10 to five that RDEK staff halt all work regarding regulation of backyard chickens on small single family residential lots in the rural areas of the the Upper Columbia Valley.At the time, RDEK Area F director Wendy Booth (who voted against the backyard chickens at the June meeting) pointed out that individual property owners who really wanted to have backyard chickens could apply for a re-zoning for their particular property or for a temporary use permit.
“The problem is the temporary use permits are only good for three years, and then you need to renew for another three years,” said Wilkie. “It actually quickly gets quite costly, since each permit is about $1,000.”
Before going to a public hearing, the RDEK will hold one more general information public meeting on chickens, beekeepingand wildlife exclusion fencing in Area G, likely in September.
“I’m please and I hoping we’ll get a good number of people at the meeting and at the hearing,” said Wilkie.
After the board had voted against staff doing any further work on backyard chickens at the June meeting, Wilkie had expressed disappointment that public opinion on the issue in Area G only had not been properly measured. The public meetings on the matter held in both Area F and Area G were poorly attended (seven people came to the one held in Edgewater, six of them in favour of both chickens and bees) and the RDEK’s online survey, which garnered more than 200responses, did not differentiate between Area G and Area F respondents.
According to Wilkie, measuring public opinion in Area F and Area G separately makes sense, since each area has distinct character.
“It just a different philosophy from that end of the valley (Area F) to ours (Area G),” he had said.
The online survey found 53 per cent of respondents in support of backyard chickens, 42 per cent not in support and fourper cent uncertain.
It was Wilkie who, after being approached by Area G residents, first brought the idea of backyard chickens and beekeepingto the RDEK board several years ago.
He said that even if backyard chickens are allowed on single family residential parcel smaller than an acre in Area G, fewpeople will likely actually keep them, but he added those who do will find benefits, ranging from “knowing the source oftheir food and the pleasure of self reliance, to (it being) an educational family activity with tangible benefit.”
Wilkie added that proposed regulations for chicken-keeping on small residential parcel in Area G will restrict numbers to four to six, prohibit roosters (to reduce noise), require coops be placed in to rear yards and set back from property lines,and recommend predator proofing of coops.