The backyard chicken debate isn’t over easy.
On Tuesday (Dec. 17), District of Squamish officials brought the issue of domestic egg-laying chickens back to the table. The motion to include them in the municipality’s urban agriculture bylaw came during a staff presentation at a Committee of the Whole meeting on 18 proposed recommendations to update the municipality’s zoning bylaw.
The changes, which include everything from a ban on new drive-throughs in Squamish to regulating the use of shipping containers in construction, will return to council before heading to a public hearing in February.
Backyard chickens have feathered council’s agendas for the past three years. As urban agriculture grows in popularity, the municipality is under pressure to allow residents to keep chickens. But unlike communities such as Vancouver, Squamish is also home to bears and coyotes.
In an effort to appease both sides, council previously instructed district staff to explore the creation of a community chicken co-op. Coun. Susan Chapelle, though, said she also wants to see the ban lifted on people’s private coops. In 2012, when officials moved to eliminate chickens and miniature farm animals from people’s lawns, council only heard from stakeholders representing the negative side of the debate, creating biased information, Chapelle said.
Coun. Ron Sander retorted the concerns presented by the people who would police the change are legitimate. Allowing chickens to run amok in downtown Squamish would lead to unpleasant wildlife interactions, he warned.
“That’s a serious safety concern,” Sander said.
If chickens truly present safety issues, there would already be evidence backing that statement, Chapelle answered, noting many residents currently keep them in their yards.
With Sander and Mayor Rob Kirkham voting against, council voted 4-2 to include the topic in the upcoming review of the zoning bylaw. Coun. Doug race was absent from the meeting.