Hall Monitor: For The Birds

backyard chickens, chicken coop, Kingston, OntarioCouncil session Tuesday night had a large agenda and touched bits of the city small and large. From parking and projects to statements and sports, unless you had the agenda on-hand, I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you thought our elected officials had gone to the birds – which, given the amount of discussion around the topic, is probably a pretty good place to start.

Tucked into the report from the Arts, Recreation & Community Policies Committee, the amendment of By-Laws to Allow Backyard Hens was separated out by the Mayor (ahead of allowing one of council to do so) and – despite a comedic attempt to call the question by the Mayor – was the start of an incredible evening of debate. Councillor Berg – the first to speak – put forward a three-part amendment that would, in short, require would-be hen owners to notify their neighbours (And receive documentation to that effect), and also sets the hen project up as a pilot project (part 2 of the amendment) and would see this same council re-visit the issue no later than October, 2013.

Debate sparked over the definition of the word “sustainable”, the possibility of rats, noise, disease and predators, the cost and problems raising chickens and the shopping plans for feed, but in the end, the recommendation passed, as amended, and the later bylaw changes did too (With noted “opposed” votes from Councillors Hector and George) allowing residents the opportunity to own up to 6 hens.

In the end, this vote amends (Or directs staff to prepare amendments to) a number of by-laws dealing with house pets, waste and livestock. It also brings in key definitions (Such as ‘coop’ and ‘hen run’) and defines where such items can be located. We’ve covered the chicken and the egg debate previously, and will again, I’m sure, as our friends and neighbours bring the birds into our lives. Coops will need to be registered annually ($10.00) and you’ll be limited to six birds who can only be outside from 6:00 am – 9:00 pm. Cluck on.

Also Around The Horseshoe

  • A great deal of debate (Mostly procedural questions and answers) took place around the the establishment of the Rural Advisory Committee. This did pass with an amendment calling for a follow-up in 2 years.
  • There was also some hearty debate over the proposed private sports facility being proposed in Westbrook, and just how closely the city wants to work with the private owners on it.
  • Council granted additional funding (Totalling up to $215,000.00) to the Engine 1095 Restoration Group as well as granting permission to hold fundraisers with some of the parts (Railroad ties and spike and such).
  • We heard reports on the K-Rock Centre’s December 31 Financials
  • A report was provided regarding the North Block downtown (Including some plans and maps)
  • City Staff provided it’s report from meetings with CFB Kingston regarding the sports dome.

Council session was also extended (to 11:30) and split (To finish on Wednesday), then later simply extended to finish agenda – both proposed by Councillor Downes, and things got a little feisty and heated towards the end with the Mayor reminding council – again – that a large number of the questions they continue to bring up might be better addressed by email with staff as opposed to at session. It’s a line we’ve already heard repeatedly, and I’m expecting to hear a lot more.

Council meets next on May 31st for the reconvening of the strategic planning session. City Council’s next session is currently scheduled for June 7, 2011 at 7:30pm.

Thanks to greengardenvienna for today’s photo.

7 thoughts on “Hall Monitor: For The Birds

  • Very exciting that a pilot will go ahead. I personally expect no trouble, and very few complaints. It's unfortunate though that Councillor Berg opted to propose last minute amendments requiring potential coop keepers to inform their neighbours and requiring their signatures on a form stating they have been informed. Suddenly a whole lot of folks who never had an opinion on this matter one way or the other will be in a position to kill a permit application by withholding their signature. Will City staff have to follow up with phone calls to signators and those who declined to sign? This pilot just got more expensive, and for no reason whatsoever since the complaint rate in other jurisdictions already allowing backyard hens is very low.

  • The notion this is more "sustainable" is absurd. It will likely result in higher carbon emissions as the henners have to make specific trips for feed or otherwise, while presumably no one (certainly no one concerned with "sustainability") is driving only to buy eggs. Of course the vast majority of carbon emissions are the animal itself, not transport.

    For once I'd like to see a politician, prison farm advocate or otherwise promoting local food for "sustainability" address the real issue – the type of food dwarfs, by a huge margin, emissions involved in transporting it from anywhere as a factor in "sustainability". Estimates peg the transportation component of food at only 11% or less of total food emissions, most of that from items that are flown. Which means in some cases food from 1000s of miles away can have a lower carbon footprint overall due to difference in production method.

    But its all barely relevant compared to the type of food ones chooses to eat. And many yammering on about "sustainability" choose to eat a high animal product diet that has a carbon footprint so high that any change to "local" is absolutely trivial.

    I certainly wouldn't support this by-law with only a 3m set back for the coop from neighbours windows. It should have been further or minimum lot size. Though it wasn't necessary at all to appease a very small special interest group. Berg's amendments were better then nothing.

    • You're right, backyard chickens are not the golden ticket to an emission free food source. Everything we consume comes at a price, and yeah, livestock tends to have a higher carbon footprint than say tomatoes. Chicken feed has to come from somewhere, and coop managers will either have to drive to pick that up, or have it delivered. Ultimately everything has an environmental impact, good and bad, but I believe the benefits of backyard chickens (food source, connection to food, no factory farmed, manure, bug control etc…) far outweigh the negatives. I think the amendments are wise as we're giving this initiative time to work out the kinks.

    • Straw man alert! What evidence do you have that sustainability advocates eat a high animal product diet? In my experience (which, by the way is of actually being involved in such campaigns for twenty years), this is completely not true. No doubt you have some evidence to make such claims…

  • So just to be clear on what the votes above, what do each amendment clauses represent? Something like this:

    1. Neighbour notification.
    2. Pilot project.
    3. Re-Visited by council NLT OCT 2013.

    • Taking the wording roughly from my video of council (Final wording will be released with the confirmed minutes following next council session), they are:

      1) Henners need to contact neighbors of abutting properties and get a signed document showing that neighbours are aware of the plan
      2) That this be considered a pilot project for 2 years until the matter has been resolved by council,
      3) That data relating to this pilot project be returned to the Arts, Recreation & Community Policies Committee by October 1, 2013

      • There was some talk about the fact that the neighbours need only be notified and don't necessarily need to consent. They mentioned, I think, the signing of an affidavit stating that the notification had taken place due to the fact that in areas where neighbours may have other, unrelated friction the neighbour could, if "permission" in the form a signature is required, veto the chance for a potential henner to get a permit.

        I don't know how that ended up in the final motion, however. I sorta got distracted by something shiny as the debate was wearing on (and on, and on).

        As for the questions that the mayor seems to be object to so much. I like them. Sometimes it seems that our councilors can only speak at a speed of 8 words a minute and so the questions drag on for long, long minutes, but I think that a council that included nothing but a list of the names of reports and motions and then their respective votes would be less interesting for the public. I think that the asking and answering of questions in the public meeting allows for the answers to be heard by the public. Quite often there are interesting questions that have been posed by some member of the public that I hadn't thought of, or had thought of, that are asked that I am very interested in hearing the answer to.

        I know the mayor says that the councilors should forward their questions and answers to the member of the public who inquired as well as to the media – but anyone who reads the Whig Standard knows that they're not dumping a whole lot of ink on local issues these days. So it's nice that TV Cogeco, at least, puts forward the effort and time to stick with the council meetings through their entirety.

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