There was a menagerie of animal ideas before Prince Albert City Council’s Executive Committee meeting on Monday, July 13.
These included a request for properly regulated use of backyard chickens which did not move forward and a request for use of goats and sheep to clean up grass and noxious weeds, which did.
Mayor Greg Dionne did not vote in favour of the chicken pilot project because he wanted to see rules about it first.
“The most important thing to me, before I allow chickens, is if they get out and they’re causing a problem, we’d better have a quick solution for them,” Dionne said. “My neighbour said ‘I can’t support the chicken bylaw until I get ahold of the cats.’ There’s a perfect example. We’ve got to deal with cats. They’re everywhere. They’re in people’s planters, and now we want to have chickens,” he added.
Dionne said he understands why the Food Coalition wants to have chickens in the city and explained that he used to live on an acreage. He said residents choose to move off the acreage and farms to get away from farm animals, and rejected comparisons to other cities that have backyard chicken pilot programs.
“We’re not like Toronto where for miles and miles you have no place to do it, so people are putting gardens on the roof and stuff like that,” he said. “We have lots of land, lots of property available, if you want chickens.”
In a letter to Council dated June 10, the Food Coalition proposed that the City agrees to work with them on a one year pilot project to assess the viability of urban chickens in Prince Albert.
In the pilot project, a maximum of 10 participants would agree to keep urban chickens under a permit system. Some conditions of the permit include that the permit holder must be an owner of single family dwelling with a city-sized lot, an adequate structure must be built to house and contain chickens on the property, and no roosters are to be owned.
The urban flock must be monitored by the volunteer assessment group, and permit holders should comply with noise, odour, pest prevention and welfare conditions of the permit. All costs would be borne by the permit holder and permits can be revoked at the discretion of the city. When the pilot was completed the volunteer group would summarize the outcomes, including input from the residents who live near the permit holders and make a presentation to city council to determine if the project was successful.
Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp initially made the motion to approve the chicken pilot project. She said city council already considered proposed rules and guidelines two years ago, and urged them to take another look at it.
After much discussion, she altered her motion to have administration provide a follow-up report by the next executive committee meeting on Aug. 10. Previous votes on backyard chickens died after a tie vote, but Lennox-Zepp said there was still a lot to build on.
“Administration did a pretty thorough job of looking at regulations and strict regulations,” Lennox-Zepp said.
During the debate, Dionne said he would not support the motion because it moved forward too fast.
“I made my decision strictly because I moved to the city because I don’t want animals around. I did live on an acreage for 10 years and I decided that wasn’t for me and I would be opposed to the city’s zoning to have chickens,” Dionne told council. “It’s not an agricultural zone, it’s a residential zone and that is why I don’t support it.”
Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha said that he received support for the motion on his personal Facebook page in the 90 percent range and wanted to revisit the motion at another meeting after administration could prepare a report. He argued that the pilot program was about food security and sustainability. Botha said he supports allowing residents to keep chickens within city limits, but agreed with Dionne that there should be rules in place.
Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski disputed the high numbers of support from Botha because of the small testing group. “Out of those people that answered positive did you ask them if they would want chickens next to their neighbour,” Zurakowski said.
“Those people or individuals would like to have chickens in their yard and as I said there were two or three based on the feedback received that didn’t want to see it and that’s been down to noise and concerns about the smell,” Botha said.
Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick initially said he wasn’t in favour, despite voting at previous meetings to allow property owners to keep chickens in their backyards. He argued the timing was bad, and said the matter should be reconsidered after the next municipal election in October. He was also concerned that council did not have all of the information in front of them, and disagreed that keeping chickens was comparable to planting a garden.
“I am not opposed to these ideas but I just think that right now we shouldn’t be doing it,” he said during the meeting.
Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody said he received a few phone calls about the issue after the agenda for Monday’s meeting came out. He explained that he was voting based on the direction of the people who contacted him. Like Dionne, Cody also said residents who wanted to keep chickens should do so on the farm.
“We have got enough stuff going to our landfill without having a whole myriad of manure going out there as well,” Cody explained. “I don’t think we need any more of that stuff. I think chickens and animals of those kinds, I think are meant for acreages and farms and the like. “I don’t think anything like that is meant for a city.”
Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller supported the motion as long as a policy was in place by the next meeting. Miller, Lennox-Zepp, Ogrodnick and Botha voted in favour and Ward 6. Coun. Blake Edwards, Zurakowski, Cody, Edwards and Dionne voted against. The motion was received and filed.
Goat motion passes by 5-4 vote
The motion to allow goats to graze on grasses and noxious weeds while supervised at a property within city limits passed by a 5-4 vote.
In a letter to council dated June 26, the owner of The Welding Shop requested that goats or sheep be allowed to forage in confined spaces and under supervision. He argued that other municipalities used this method of weed and grass control, and that it was proactive and environmentally friendly.
Lennox-Zepp moved that administration provide a report regarding allowing goats/sheep to clean up grass and noxious weeds for citizens and companies. Council has already passed similar motions regarding the use of goats and sheep on municipal property.
“This letter is from a member of the public asking if he could bring in supervised goats to clean up noxious weeds on his corporate land,” Lennox-Zepp said during the meeting.
“It is a company. This council has already passed a motion saying the city can do it. We haven’t done it yet, but there is a motion on the books. The city can bring in goats and sheep to do the cleanup work on our own property, so it makes sense, I would think, that we would pass this.”
She received support from Botha, who said he passes by the property at least once a day. “I think it could definitely do with goats, because there is a lot of material on there,” he said. Dionne did not support the motion because of an incident involving a fence being cut and goats getting loose.
“Unless you are going to have a shepherd right there watching them in the city, that is what’s going to happen,” Dionne explained. “He thought he had a success going. He had his yard fully fenced and someone come along and wanted to get at the goats and cut the fence down and away they went…. I believe there is a time and a place for them and I don’t believe this is the time and the place.”
— with files from Jason Kerr, Prince Albert Daily Herald