BY MARK WEBER
Lacombe City council gave third reading to the Urban Hen Bylaw during the meeting held earlier this week.
At its Sept. 11th, 2015 meeting, council approved a resolution directing administration to bring back a proposal for the introduction of an urban hen pilot project.
According to council notes, that decision was based on interest from the community as well as information provided by administration.
Council approved the bylaw after amending it to ensure consistency with the Livestock Control Bylaw #35– to promote local food production and farming practices through an urban hen pilot project.
“Council is committed to promoting a healthy, connected and active community, and this pilot project gives residents access to fresh, locally grown food year-round,” said Mayor Steve Christie.
“We recognize that urban hen-keeping is a growing trend in the region and is supported by many in the community; however, concerns were raised during the public consultation period about the potential for nuisances, which council has addressed by putting in place a number of regulatory controls.”
Meanwhile, the City will conduct a one year pilot project. Administration will report back to council after this initial year.
“Now that Bylaw #419 has been approved, work will begin on the administrative aspects of the pilot program,” said Corporate Services Director Michael Minchin. “Since the maximum number of properties where chickens are allowed is 10, residents interested in hen keeping within City limits will have to go through an application process to receive a licence.”
Hens must be contained within a chicken coop and enclosed outer area. The total size of the coop and outside area is 10m2 and the coop must not exceed 2.4m in height.
Some other bylaw highlights include the restriction of licenses to properties containing single detached and semi-detached dwellings and that neighbours having contiguous boundaries to the applicant’s property must be consulted prior to issuance of a license.
At a meeting this past March, council gave first reading to Bylaw 419. At the time, council also directed administration to conduct a survey of the public as well as have information available.
The survey conducted by the City had a total of 321 responses. In general, approximately half of those surveyed or 170 were interested having urban hens and 64% or 206 were in favour of having hens allowed in their neighbourhoods.
Earlier this month, council passed second reading of the bylaw.
This past Monday, Councillor Bill McQuesten said that council will be looking at the bylaw again in a year’s time and, “We could make some changes at that point in time. This is to see how it works, and I think it should stand as it is. I’m pleased with the debate we had – I think it was very robust,” he said.
The issue of a given neighbour’s concerns over a coop were discussed again, but Norma MacQuarrie, CAO for the City of Lacombe, said that because a neighbour may not want a chicken coop beside them, “Is not reason enough to deny the applicant the ability to have a chicken coop as long as they are compliant with all of the regulations within the bylaw.
“That is important that that is acknowledged.”
It was also questioned how administration would select who would be accepted into the program, as the number of applicants is expected to exceed those eligible.
MacQuarrie said there are a number of options, including random draws and taking applicants on a first come, first serve basis in terms of the order in which applications are received.
In other council news, council voted to enter into a contract for the Provincial Building Assessment and Business Plan with Manasc Isaac Architects.
According to council notes, at its meeting on April 11th, council received a report from administration summarizing the current building condition based on a high level review.
Council resolved to direct administration to request proposals for the provincial building through an RFP process for a detailed Alberta Building Code Compliance review, a structural survey, hazardous material survey, utility capacity analysis, and potential operational costs for council consideration.
Based on their scores the RFP Review Committee shortlisted the top two ranking firms at the post-submission meeting for further discussion.
The committee deliberated the advantages of the top two ranking firms and recommended Manasc Isaac be awarded the provincial building assessment and business plan scope of work. MacQuarrie said their fee amounts to $49,100 plus GST.
“The range in terms of proposals that were received went from $33,500 to $140,000. So certainly, we feel that this is good value,” she said.
Contract negotiations will now be finalized and work will begin to complete the building assessment and business plan by the end of August.