Sidney may open the door to backyard chickens and potentially other types of livestock in the future.
Council on Monday unanimously asked staff to prepare a report into the subject after receiving a letter from Teresa Ainey.
“Can Sidney (residents), please raise chickens now?” asked Ainey. “We are the (only) municipality in all of Greater Victoria, that is not welcome to raise chickens. Why? This has been brought to council for many years, and has been swept under the rug.”
Previous councils had prohibited the practice because of Sidney’s small lot sizes and the potential for backyard animals to attract rodents and cause other issues such as conflicts over odours. But a growing number of individuals like Ainey have challenged Sidney’s exceptionalism in recent years, including 2018 when the municipality received a petition with some 300 signatures, followed by other appeals.
Coun. Terri O’Keeffe acknowledged this history in pointing to the prohibition under the previous official community plan (OCP). Sidney’s new OCP now includes language that speaks of encouraging “food production on private property in Sidney where there is sufficient and appropriate available space” in opening the door for future animal husbandry in an urban environment. “It’s worth getting a report from staff to consider the pros and cons,” said O’Keeffe.
Coun. Steve Duck agreed with the importance of the issue of food security. He added that staff should be able to review a wide range of policies from other municipalities in their research. But the public also heard a more critical perspective from Coun. Richard Novek.
While Novek said he would not be “opposed in principle” to the idea of backyard chickens, the practice would have to be “extremely tightly regulated” because the “potential for problems is huge” in asking staff to take a broader look at the issue in their review. “Lot size would be a critical factor,” he said.
He also wondered whether staff would be able to adopt policies from elsewhere for Sidney given its density relative to other communities in Greater Victoria.
Coun. Sara Duncan, meanwhile, asked staff to look into the process other municipalities have used to decide what types of animals would be permissible under which circumstances.
Duncan said she is not looking for an animal-by-animal breakdown. “Because then staff might be going down a rabbit hole — sorry,” she said, drawing approving chuckles.
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