There is growing interest in having both backyard chickens and bees in Chilliwack’s residential areas — but city council has been treading carefully.
Council voted to approve the staff recommendation on Tuesday, echoing the consensus come to by Agricultural Advisory Committee, which favours keeping the current rules with some exceptions, but to create a whole new beekeeping bylaw.
The Agricultural Advisory Committee explored the issues as a group, and in the end, recommended sticking to the status quo on backyard chickens, which is only allowing chicken coops in agricultural or rural use areas only.
But the committee noted that “while they were supportive of maintaining the existing regulations” around the keeping of chickens outside the Urban Containment Boundary, property owners were free to seek a temporary use permit (TUP), for consideration by council on a case-by-case basis.
Support for the TUP would be based on having specific conditions met, such as a minimum lot size of a half acre, enclosed coop construction, and obtaining letters of support from neighbours.
City council said during discussions back in 2014 that they didn’t want to put the agriculture sector at risk for avian influenza or other diseases, by allowing backyard chickens in residential areas. Other concerns were around end of life disposal, vermin, and cost recovery.
During the council discussion this week, Coun. Jason Lum asked if there was any wiggle room around lowering the cost of the $400 TUP, and was told that the cost of processing the permit was the same, in terms of staff time to process applications.
“Because I think the interest is fairly high,” Coun. Lum said about the prospect of urban hens and bees.
“Unfortunately for many who’ve asked about backyard chickens, they find the cost prohibitive.”
In terms of moving ahead with backyard bees, the recommendation was drafting urban beekeeping bylaw to regulate the practice as a hobby while educating the public about apiculture.
Beekeeper Laura Cameron Delisle said after the meeting that she’d welcome a new, “progressive” beekeeping bylaw to meet the current needs in the community.
“Amending city bylaws in support of urban beekeeping would provide a considerable amount of support for an already existing community of hobbyist beekeepers that has been significantly growing over the past years,” she said.
She sees a modern and “progressive” regulatory approach as “essential” for best practices in beekeeping management.
“Ultimately, we want the beekeepers in our community to succeed at the practice, for our honeybees to be healthy too – and this involves good beekeeping management supported by progressive urban beekeeping bylaws.”
The exploration of keeping backyard birds and the bees at the city level started after council approved the issuing of a temporary use permit (TUP) this summer, for two beehives, and three chickens on a residential property in a rural part of Yale Road.