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No fowl play as City considers backyard hens and urban gardens

Cold Lake residents may soon be able to raise chickens in backyard coops, as City Council says it is considering developing a licensing program under the Animal Care and Control Bylaw.

Council discussed the proposal at the April 20 meeting of the Corporate Priorities Committee. Several other Alberta municipalities allow residents to obtain licenses to raise hens on private property and the City has received inquiries from Cold Lake residents who wish to do the same.

“Not only do backyard hens provide fresh eggs and allow our residents to know exactly where their food comes from, but it’s also a very rewarding process and it gives our young people hands-on experience raising livestock,” said Mayor Craig Copeland. “Our Animal Care and Control Bylaw currently restricts any type of livestock in the city to land that is zoned specifically for agricultural operations. In order to change the bylaw to permit hen-keeping, Council will need to be satisfied that these operations will not cause a nuisance to their neighbours and that anyone granted a license is able to properly care for their animals.”

Committee members raised questions regarding training for potential hen-keepers and whether a formal training program would need to be completed as a requirement for licensing. Council also discussed whether hen-keepers could simply notify owners of neighbouring properties of their operations, or if written permission from neighbours would be required. These policies will be defined in the hen-keeping bylaw to be discussed by Council at a later date.

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In addition, the committee discussed a proposed amendment to the Land Use Bylaw, which would allow residents to plant and maintain urban gardens (also known as urban agriculture) on vacant parcels of land within the city. Residents would be required to provide proof of permission from the property owner and apply for a development permit with the City.

The proposed amendment would allow the urban garden operator to grow produce for personal use or for sale at local farmers’ markets. Curbside pickup could be permitted from urban gardens in commercial areas but would not be allowed in residential neighbourhoods.

“Allowing urban gardening in the city is one of those things that kills two birds with one stone,” says Copeland. “Some of these empty lots in our residential neighbourhoods can sit vacant for months or even years. The weeds get out of control in the summer and they can become a dumping ground for garbage. If a resident wanted to use a vacant lot for gardening, they would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the property, which would in turn help beautify the neighbourhood and boost surrounding property values. The urban gardener would also be creating a sustainable, healthy source of food for the community and possibly even use it to earn an income.”

The Corporate Priorities Committee directed Administration to prepare a proposed bylaw for urban hen-keeping and a proposed amendment to the Land Use Bylaw for urban gardening, both of which will be considered at an upcoming City Council meeting.

From a City of Cold Lake Press Release 

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