Amherst says no to back­yard chick­ens

Ac­cepts rec­om­men­da­tion from plan­ning ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee against chang­ing by­law

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­rell.cole@amher­st­ Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Amherst is say­ing no to back­yard chick­ens.

Coun­cil ac­cepted a rec­om­men­da­tion from its plan­ning ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee to turn down a pro­posed by­law change that would’ve al­lowed for the rais­ing of chick­ens in res­i­den­tial areas.

“It’s a de­ci­sion that was not made lightly in any way,” Deputy Mayor Sheila Christie told coun­cil’s Oc­to­ber meeting. “The PAC had a for­mal dis­cus­sion about this about three weeks be­fore the pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion ses­sion and we iden­ti­fied a lot of things both pro and con and there was the pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion ses­sion and an­other dis­cus­sion among coun­cil.

“I know a lot of the coun­cil­lors here have had phone calls and the vast ma­jor­ity were against it.”

Christie said while there were 18 peo­ple at the pub­lic hear­ing and some spoke for it and some spoke against it, the ma­jor­ity of those who’ve spo­ken to coun­cil­lors or made writ­ten sub­mis­sions to coun­cil are op­posed to al­low­ing the by­law change.

In his re­port to coun­cil, the town’s man­ager of plan­ning and strate­gic ini­tia­tives, An­drew Fisher, said most peo­ple at the pub­lic hear­ing ex­pressed con­cern about en­force­ment and com­pli­ance and felt the by­laws al­ready in place are not be­ing ad­e­quately en­forced.

He said some felt keep­ing chick­ens in town is not ap­pro­pri­ate and al­low­ing them will cre­ate prob­lems.

The town’s land-use by­laws pro­hibit the keep­ing of agri­cul­tural an­i­mals within town, ex­cept for three spe­cific parcels of land on Robert An­gus Drive.

Coun. Ja­son Blanch said he’s dis­ap­pointed coun­cil is miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity to make Amherst a wel­com­ing com­mu­nity to younger peo­ple who are more creative. It’s th­ese peo­ple who will show ini­tia­tive and cre­ate busi­ness.

He’s also dis­ap­pointed be­cause this coun­cil was elected on the premise of change, but is miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity to do just that.

As for en­force­ment, he said, it’s no dif­fer­ent than the dif­fi­culty the town is hav­ing with en­forc­ing any by­law it de­vel­ops for the use of cannabis.

“This coun­cil was elected on the ex­pec­ta­tion of change and we have made some change in many things we’ve done. Al­low­ing ur­ban chick­ens would be a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of that phi­los­o­phy,” Blanch said, adding only one per­son was strongly op­posed to the pro­posal and quite a few spoke in favour. “Some said they weren’t con­cerned with chick­ens, but were con­cerned with en­force­ment, which was iden­ti­fied by the plan­ning ad­vi­sory as a con­cern. I don’t feel that’s a rea­son­able con­cern to make a de­ci­sion against the voice of so many peo­ple in our com­mu­nity.”

Blanch said he would’ve liked to see a one-year pi­lot project. He said this is an ur­ban move­ment that’s been go­ing on for a cou­ple of decades. He also feels the de­ci­sion goes against con­nect­ing youth with their food and know­ing where it comes from. He said it’s also been proven to work in other areas with no sig­nif­i­cant is­sues and only min­i­mal con­cerns that could eas­ily be over­come.

“If we al­low back­yard chick­ens, like so many other com­mu­ni­ties have done, we send a mes­sage and that mes­sage is we are the fu­ture. I like that mes­sage so much bet­ter than we can’t change be­cause we’re back­ward be­cause we’re not go­ing to al­low back­yard chick­ens and we’re not even go­ing to try it for a year.”

Coun. Wayne MacKen­zie said he would not want chick­ens in his back­yard.

“I just think we’d be open­ing up a can of worms,” MacKen­zie said. “Ev­ery­one has their opin­ion and I know the peo­ple who brought it to us would be very re­spect­ful. I’m not say­ing they won’t be, but right now I just don’t feel there is a place for it in Amherst.”

Coun­cil was asked to change its by­law after Jill and Jeff Brew­ster were or­dered to re­move a chicken coop last year be­cause the rais­ing of agri­cul­ture an­i­mals is not per­mit­ted in res­i­den­tial areas.

When the Brew­sters moved to Amherst they built a small chicken coop and run on Derby Street and went about rais­ing a small num­ber of chick­ens to pro­vide eggs for their young fam­ily. Some­one com­plained to the RCMP, the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and the town be­cause they thought the an­i­mals weren’t healthy.

The Brew­sters said they took good care of their flock, but ended up giv­ing them to a friend in Pug­wash.

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