Original Published 05:00 Apr 06, 2022

By Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Amendments to the Wheatland County Land Use Bylaw (LUB) to allow hamlet residents to keep backyard hens or bees was defeated by council following a public hearing during the regular Tuesday, March 22 council meeting.

 Discussion around permitting backyard hens and bees has been ongoing, with a ratepayer survey and questionnaire sent out in October 2021, and the proposed amendments circulated to ratepayers in mid-December 2021.

 “The majority of (survey) participants were not interested in keeping backyard hens or bees on their property, but were not opposed to neighbours doing so provided conditions were in place to consider the potential impact to neighbours and the welfare of the animal,” explained Planning and Development planner Taylor Felt during the meeting.

 Mr. Felt added these amendments were only being considered for the hamlet residential districts, and not in the communities of Speargrass or Lakes of Muirfield, based on a majority of responses from the December communication voicing opposition.

 A single written submission was received after the circulation period for the public hearing closed, and the submission was read into the record.

 While the ratepayer expressed they were in favour of allowing backyard hens, they were strongly opposed to allowing bees due to the risk of allergic reactions resulting in anaphylaxis.

 Division 7 Councillor Rick Laursen shared his concerns about the potential risks for salmonella and cyanobacteria transmission from chickens to humans. 

 This has been a concern Councillor Laursen has continued to raise throughout discussions on the proposed amendments.

 Other council members also questioned whether there was enough interest to justify making amendments to the bylaw and, if approved, how to repeal the bylaw if necessary. 

 Division 3 Councillor Donna Biggar and Reeve Amber Link both noted they have been approached by ratepayers interested in keeping backyard hens or bees, both within their respective divisions and from across the county. 

 “If I can raise a chicken in Calgary, you should be able to raise a chicken in Cheadle,” Division 4 Councillor Tom Ikert stated, referencing a bylaw passed by the city to allow backyard hens within the urban area.

 The proposed amendment to the bylaw was defeated during the third reading with three votes in favour and four in opposition; as the motion was defeated, the topic cannot be brought forward for council consideration for a one-year period.

This item reprinted with permission from The Drumheller Mail, Drumheller, Alberta