There may soon be a buzz around town.
In a debate that has involved two District of Squamish councils, Committee of the Whole on Tuesday (July 24) took a stand the backyard livestock and bee debate. Municipal staff recommended allowing bees in residential neighbourhoods, but chickens and miniature farm animals weren't so lucky.
“Squamish remains one of the top five municipalities in B.C. for wildlife interactions,” district planner Sabina FooFat said.
The community is bordered by wilderness and striving to maintain its Bear Smart status — a human-bear conflict reduction program, she said. No matter how well maintained and secure a chicken coop is, the creatures will attract wildlife, Sgt. Peter Busink of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service warned.
Chickens don't lay eggs their entire lives, FooFat added. Most commercial ventures kill the hens at that point, but district staff questioned what will happen to elderly backyard chickens.
“The SPCA doesn't accept chickens,” FooFat said.
District staff recommended the municipality team up with local organizations, such as the Squamish Climate Action Network (CAN), and explore the idea of a community chicken coop placed in a rural area.
“This would still allow people to have that connection to food,” FooFat said.
The facility could be properly maintained and protected from bears and be easy to monitor, she said. It would also allow for consolidated waste management, FooFat noted.
Although Coun. Bryan Raiser said he liked the idea of the communal coop, chickens already exist in urban areas and attract fewer bears than do garbage or fruit trees.
“I can't get my head around how we can allow people to have cats and not chickens,” he said, noting the pets make a tasty meal to many mammals.
Coun. Susan Chapelle agreed. She handed district officials a petition with 317 Squamish residents' signatures on it, voicing support for the idea of allowing backyard hens.
Nobody wants to exacerbate wildlife issues, but Coun. Patricia Heintzman questioned where one draws the line. She suggested the district pilot a few chicken coops in urban neighbourhoods to get an understanding of what the municipality would be dealing with.
Coun. Doug Race and Ron Sander both backed the community chicken coop, but shook their heads about having livestock in town. It would raise issues with stratas and building schemes, Race said, noting most communities ban poultry and livestock.
By increasing wildlife attractants in neighbourhoods, logically you will increase the number of unwanted visits, Race said.
“In my view it poses a danger for our residents,” he said.
With the exception of Chapelle, Committee of the Whole voted in favour of the recommendations to allow residents to keep bees, but not chickens and miniature farm animals in residential neighbourhoods. The motion included the examination of a community chicken coop.
“I will vote in favour of this because I know it is not over yet,” Raiser said, noting council has the summer to consider policy before it goes to council.