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City supports two year trial program for urban chicken coops

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Urban dwellers in Kawartha Lakes who have an interest in raising their own chickens for meat and eggs will soon be getting their opportunity.

Council has approved a recommendation from bylaw enforcement to re-write the existing rules that prohibit this activity and implement a two-year trial program that will license 50 different urban sites across the city. At the end of the two-year pilot, bylaw enforcement will compile data and report to the city about the viability of extending and expanding the program.

Aaron Sloan, manager of bylaw enforcement for the city, told council that there has been “long-standing community interest in urban chicken coops, and this issue has been before council on numerous occasions.”

“People are very interested in developing alternative food sources,” Sloan said. “We have spoken to many people about this issue and most have been supportive of the idea of urban coops.”

Sloan presented multiple options to council, recommending one in particular. This option would see a permit fee for the coop, a maximum of 50 licenses initially, and the city would maintain the right to designate where the coops could be based on lot size and geographic locations.

The city would look specifically at the costs of running and enforcing the program and look at complaints the program might generate. Interested residents will be asked to submit an application for their right to have a chicken coop behind their homes.

Councillors were very interested in Sloan’s proposal and much discussion ensued.

Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan, a long time advocate for the idea of urban chicken coops was “very happy with the report.”

Councillor Doug Elmslie wondered how much say the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit would have over crafting the final regulations governing the chicken operations.

“The health unit will certainly have a say in crafting the final bylaw,” Sloan shared.

Councillor Ron Ashmore was fully supportive of the idea, but wondered how “dead stock” would be disposed of in a hygienic and appropriate manner.

“We are working on that process right now,” Sloan said. “With only 50 licensed operations during the first two years of the program talks are ongoing with folks at the city landfills to see what would work. They (the first 50 coop owners) are not likely going to be farmers but we will still require them to register with the province so they can be kept abreast of any health issues that might affect their birds.”

Councillor Andrew Veale wondered if 50 permits for the trial run was a “hard and fast number.”

“From a logistical standpoint, we really don’t want more than that,” Sloan said. “We know there are a number already in place and we hope they will become involved in the program.”

Veale wondered what would happen to pre-existing chicken coop owners who refuse to get a license and/or participate in the program. Will those operations be shut down by city officials?

“Let’s hope those pre-existing coops will register and become part of this program,” Sloan said.

Council approved the bylaw revision and option suggested by Sloan, bringing this pilot project one step closer to becoming reality.

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

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