Qualicum Beach council deferred giving third reading to a bylaw amendment that would allow backyard chicken in residential areas.
Residents were given a chance to speak on the proposed bylaw amendment at the public hearing held during council’s regular meeting on April 6.
The majority who spoke were in favour of the backyard chickens, with one opposed. There were also letters submitted, with more residents writing against the bylaw and one in favour.
The issue of the three-metre setback and lot size were in the forefront of most comments. One resident said she already built a coop and may have to dismantle it to conform with the amended bylaws. Questions were also raised regarding property size, with one resident indicating the 1,000-square-metre lot size requirement limits the amount of people who can raise chickens in their backyard.
Coun. Scott Harrison indicated residents who were involved in the pilot that started in 2016 should be grandfathered in and not be burdened with having to amend or relocate their coops to meet the the bylaw requirements.
“If there are no complaints in the last four years about how you’ve done things, then it does seem a little bit unfair to saddle that homeowner with additional costs when they haven’t been a problem over several years,” said Harrison.
Setbacks were established to address concerns about chickens escaping from the property or negatively impacting neighbours, town planner Luke Sales explained. He pointed out other municipalities use the same three-metre setback regulation which the amended bylaw was based on.
Sales also pointed out if the amended bylaw is enacted, residents who were involved in the pilot would be required to follow the new requirement unless council decides to grandfather some special allowance for them.
“The default would be following the policy, which is enforcing on a complaints basis,” said Sales.
Mayor Brian Wiese and Coun. Anne Skipsey wanted to know how many residents who have already built coops would be impacted by the setback policy.
Harrison made a motion to defer third reading until they figure out the impact the bylaw will have on the 17 residents already in the pilot program. It was endorsed by council,
Sales said the town made a zoning amendment to accommodate the pilot program and allow participants to have backyard chickens through a temporary use permit.
“Those have expiration dates,” said Sales.
Harrison said there might be some alternatives that might work and asked staff to look at other options.
“I know this is not impacting a huge number of homes, let’s be blunt,” said Harrison. “But I do want to make sure that people who’ve invested a lot of time, effort and energy and are very passionate about this aren’t stuck in a situation where they have to spend a lot of money to accommodate our changes.”
Sales said they can come up with a report soon. But he also informed council to also consider what happens to property owners whose lots are too small to comply with the 1000 square metre minimum.
“You know approximately half the people that did it started on properties that were too small,” said Sales. “So we need to consider what will happen to them as well.”