Urban chickens wait for approval
Friday, May 24, 2013
Times & Transcript
By: James Foster
Topics: Municipal Plan, Neutral
City farms idea still in limbo but some urban farmers aren’t waiting
Years after a Moncton property was given an experimental permit to host chickens and grow food, the city is inching its way towards a bylaw and regulatory framework that could open the door to urban farming.
‘It’s all part of the Plan Moncton review,’ says Bill Budd, the city’s director of urban planning, ‘and the draft zoning bylaw is in the process of being finalized.’ After that, however, city councillors will get one last chance to review the bylaw and suggest changes. And even if council approves it by this fall, the process doesn’t end with either a yay or nay to innercity small-scale food production, rather it sets out the framework under which council can begin a review of the idea with a view to eventually approving it or nixing it, Budd explained Thursday.
It would ‘allow exploring opportunities to facilitate inner-city food production.’ Both Fredericton and Saint John are threatening to leap ahead of Moncton on the so-called ‘urban chickens’ agenda that was pioneered, at least in New Brunswick, by Moncton as those other two cities have proposed bylaws and regulations coming soon before their respective councils on the issue, though it is not yet clear if their proposed bylaws are as comprehensive as what Moncton envisions, with regulations that would allow Moncton residents, in certain cases and in limited numbers, to have laying hens (not likely chickens for meat production) and to produce food on their urban properties.
A group called Post Carbon Greater Moncton unveiled the concept by converting a residential property in Moncton, with four laying hens producing about two dozen eggs per week, fruit trees and a garden, back in 2009. They studied the project for more than one year, including its impact on neighbours, and found no ill effects – even from the chickens, with very little noise and no objectionable smells.
The results of the group’s study were passed on to various cities, including Moncton which is where it sits almost four years later, while Fredericton and Saint John are almost done the process of endorsing and regulating inner-city food production.
Michel Desjardins of Post Carbon Moncton says the matter has taken so long in Moncton that some residents are proceeding on their own.
‘Coops are popping up not only in Moncton, but in Dieppe and Riverview as well,’ Desjardins says, ‘and I know they are popping up.’ Post Carbon Greater Moncton has agreed all along that allowing more widespread urban food production will require regulations, for example on the number of chickens and not allowing noisy roosters and the like. Urban food production is seen by the group as a good step towards food security in the area, and an ecologically sound source of fresh food.
To be fair to the city, it only included urban farming in its Plan Moncton exercise last year, and developing bylaws, regulations and zoning changes can take time. But Desjardins noted thatMoncton had a head start on this growing trend, and it now trails its sister cities in getting urban food production regulated and underway.
‘We were the first out of the gate with the idea but now we are being passed by the other two communities.’ With the coming later this year of the wider community vision from the PlanMoncton exercise and the new updated zoning bylaws, city council and staff will then have the framework within which it can devise a set of regulations that would accommodate inner-city food production while safeguarding the enjoyment of neighbours’ own properties.
Or they could shoot down the entire proposal.
More likely, Budd said, is they will take a look at regulations in Saint John and Fredericton and perhaps other cities where this is done to see which rules might work well for Moncton.