Residents living on small single family residential parcels (less than one acre in size) in Regional District of East Kootenay(RDEK) Areas F and G will not have the chance to keep chickens, following a series of votes centring on backyard agricultureat the most recent RDEK board of directors meeting. Furthermore, those living on such parcels in RDEK Area G mayeventually be able to keep bees, but those in Area F will not.
At the Friday, June 10th meeting, the RDEK directors voted 10 to five in favour of a motion that RDEK staff do no furtherwork regarding the regulation of backyard chickens on small single family residential lots in the rural areas of the UpperColumbia Valley (bylaws are already in place allowing chickens and bees on single family residential lots larger than oneacre in both Areas F and G).
Of the Columbia Valley directors on the board, RDEK Area F director Wendy Booth, Radium Hot Springs mayor ClaraReinhardt and Canal Flats councillor Paul Marcil voted in favour of the motion not to proceed with backyard chickens, while RDEKArea G director Gerry Wilkie and Invermere mayor Gerry Taft voted against the motion (backyard chicken and bees arealready allowed in the District of Invermere).
In a separate motion, the board of directors voted 11 to four in favour of amending bylaws to regulate beekeeping on smallsingle family residential lots in Area G only. Of the the Columbia Valley directors, Booth voted against allowing beekeepingin Area G, while the other four directors (Reinhardt, Marcil, Taft and Wilkie) voted in favour of it.
The board of directors then unanimously passed a motion to amend bylaws to allow higher wildlife exclusion fencing onsingle family residential lots in both Areas F and G. The RDEK will now proceed with formal public hearings on beekeepingin Area G and higher wildlife fencing in both Areas G and F.
“I am disappointed with the board vote on the keeping of chickens in Area G, particularly when I had asked for it to go to aformal public hearing where the public opinion in Area G could be formally measured. On the other hand I appreciate theopportunity to go to public hearing for regulating beekeeping in Area G and wildlife fencing in both electoral areas,” Wilkietold The Echo. “Our planning staff did a lot of research on existing bylaws in other jurisdictions and how they dealt withcommon concerns. This information was in the board’s agenda package for study prior to the meeting. Unfortunately, howthese concerns were positively addressed in other communities was ignored by most of the board and discussion centredon a perception that chicken keeping would attract unwanted wildlife and create problems for our compliance officers. Manyjurisdictions across the country, including Invermere, have successfully developed regulations for residential chickenkeeping. In fact, last week, the City of Kamloops council voted in favour of permitting chickens in residential areas.”
It was Wilkie who, after being approached by Area G residents, first brought the idea of backyard chickens and beekeepingto the board several years ago. At last year’s strategic planning process, the board decided to measure public response tobackyard agriculture in Area F as well as G. The RDEK held three public meetings on backyard agriculture during the pastyear, none of which were well-attended, according to Wilkie.
“An online survey open to residents of Area F and G received a better response, but there was no breakdown on where therespondents resided (either Area F or G). The public meeting in Edgewater was attended by only seven people, and six werein favour of keeping of both bees and chickens. At the June meeting, I asked the board to confine the bylaw amendmentdiscussion (for chickens) to Area G only,” said Wilkie “In Area G, the bylaw amendment would have had application only inEdgewater and Wilmer — communities in which there is single family zoning and where the rural way of life is readilyaccepted and appreciated.”
However, in the end, confining the backyard chicken amendment to Area G didn’t matter, as the board as a whole votedagainst it.
Wilkie added that, in addition to confining the chicken bylaw amendment to Area G, regulations for chicken keeping wouldhave restricted numbers to four to six, prohibited roosters to reduce noise, coops would be restricted to rear yards and setback from property lines, and predator proofing of coops would have been recommended.
He told The Echo it’s unfortunate that difference in public response between Area G and Area F couldn’t be more accuratelymeasured, since the two areas each have distinct character.
“It just a different philosophy from that end of the valley (Area F) to ours (Area G),” he said.
“Few people take up backyard agriculture, but for those that do, the benefits vary from knowing the source of their foodand the pleasure of self-reliance, to (it being) an educational family activity with tangible benefit,” he added.
For her part, Booth indicated that her votes on the backyard agriculture issues stem from the response at the publicmeetings and from the online survey carried out by the RDEK.
“With the consultation that the RDEK did over the last several months, we had more than 200 people either attend one ofthe three meetings or complete the survey and the percentage in support (of a backyard chicken amendment) was 53 percent, 42 per cent not in support and four per cent uncertain. As result of that, I’m comfortable with the direction that theRDEK board chose, which was not to proceed,” she said. “The results of the survey and public meeting on the keeping ofbees was 59 per cent in support, 38 per cent not in support and eight per cent undecided. As result of that, the RDEK boardapproved the drafting of bylaws for the keeping of bees in Area G at the request of Wilkie.”
The results for garden fencing were 70 per cent in support, 23 per cent against and seven per cent undecided, according toBooth.
“I felt that this was a strong direction from the communities to move forward in drafting these (fencing) bylaws,” she said.
Booth added that it is important to realize that if individual residents wish to keep chickens or bees, they can apply for a re-zoning for their particular property or for a temporary use permit.