City of Powell River council gave first three readings to two bylaw amendments that would allow for up to six chickens to be kept on residential properties.
At the May 27 city council meeting, councillors heard two delegations regarding the keeping of poultry on residential properties, as well as considering adjustments to the animal control bylaw and municipal ticketing information bylaw to more stringently regulate the keeping of poultry on municipal properties.
Council first heard from resident Harry Raimondo, who said he was appearing before council to speak about the proposal coming forward regarding poultry.
“I’m not very happy with what’s come forward,” said Raimondo. “I was expecting a lot more. We’ve been going through something here for quite a while and we are getting tired of the rats, flies, poultry poop and poultry urine. It’s enough.”
Raimondo said the proposed bylaws had been brought forward very quickly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he thought council was trying to proceed too quickly.
He said his back yard, which he doesn’t use anymore, is only 30 by 27 feet. The person in the next yard has three chickens and council wants to double that allowance, said Raimondo. That means double the feces, double the urine, double the rats, and raccoons are showing up.
Raimondo said the city should look at property sizes, not just the number of chickens.
“Some places shouldn’t have chickens at all,” he said. “I urge council to look at this again and not to try and shove it through. I understand people want more chickens, and that’s fine, but you’ve got to have a place to put them.”
Council then heard from Terry Munday, who said he was a neighbour of Raimondo. He said he has chickens located close to his property. He said having double the number of chickens, in his case, is “unthinkable.”
“I can see in some spots like Wildwood where there are large yards, six chickens is nothing,” said Munday. “There’s a few more eggs and it’s all good.
“In my case, I can’t possibly see it growing. The chicken issue should be on a personal basis. If I want chickens, then one of your people should come with a checklist.”
Munday said he was not against chickens, but in his case, it’s tough when he wants to go out in his yard in the summer.
“The chicken thing has to be done on a case-by-case basis, more than a blanket ‘you can have chickens,’” said Munday. “I just can’t imagine, in my situation, having twice as many.”
Council then considered the draft bylaw amending the Powell River animal control bylaw. Councillor George Doubt said the bylaw addresses a number of concerns. He said section 32 of amendment stipulates that a person keeping poultry or rabbits must have them located in the rear yard of their property, and no closer than three metres from any lot line. He added that enclosures must be constructed in a manner that provides protection from natural predators, and that enclosures must be kept dry, unsoiled and free of odours or vermin.
“That will be enforceable,” said Doubt. “I’m in favour of this bylaw. The three-metre limit is going to keep them limited on the smallest of lots.”
Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she was sure there are properties that aren’t suitable for chickens because they are so small. She said maybe the city could declare a permit for chickens so someone goes out and takes a look at the property, sees what’s viable and where the coop will be placed. She added that it would help people be aware of the regulations.
Councillor Rob Southcott said he believes the bylaw was written in a way to require the problems, such as smell, flies and rats, will no longer be acceptable and will be enforceable by fines. Southcott said he initially thought setbacks should be larger than three metres and that would eliminate poultry from smaller lots.
“The way this is written actually handles it better,” said Southcott. “Say you have a neighbour who has a chicken and you smell it, there are flies or rats, that’s a problem and that is now controllable in this bylaw. This should fix the problem.”
Councillor Cindy Elliott said lot sizes have been an issue with her from day one. She said if council doesn’t pass this bylaw with all of the prohibitions, then the city is left with the one in place, which is problematic for a lot of people. She said she was in favour of a minimum lot size.
Councillor Jim Palm said he has heard from residents who were not happy with the locations of chicken coops.
“On small city lots, I don’t agree,” said Palm. “That’s the issue for me. I do like councillor Hathaway’s idea of having someone assess the property and get a permit to ensure all of the rules and regulations are met and that residents are well aware of responsibilities under the bylaw. I’d really like to have some control over where these coops go.”
Southcott said if a bylaw enforcement officer had to inspect every place where there are chickens, that might increase their workload even more.
Corporate officer Chris Jackson said there would be staff resources required to conduct inspections. He said the system is currently structured to respond to complaints.
Mayor Dave Formosa said if somebody wants to install a chicken coop less than three metres from another property, and complaints resulted, the city would come over and tell the chicken owner to move the enclosure. If there was a smell, the chicken owner would be told to get rid of it.
“In the bylaw, they have to clean the poop and make sure there are no rodents,” said Formosa. “If it’s not, there’s a $100 fine daily. Our team would uphold the bylaw. What the corporate officer has done, actually, works.”
On the first three readings of the animal control bylaw, the motion passed, with Hathaway and Palm opposed.
On the first readings of the municipal ticketing information bylaw, which stipulates fines for non-compliance, the motion passed, with Hathaway and Palm opposed.
Final reading and adoption is scheduled for the June 4 council meeting.