In recent months, four major Canadian cities—Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Calgary—have joined Edmonton in deciding that farm animals, such as chickens, have no place in an urban setting.
And this brings us to Halifax, where just one resident, who seems to want special treatment to have poultry in a dense residential area, is flaunting our municipal laws.
Restaurateur, barber, entrepreneur and wanna-be mayor Fred Connors keeps a number of laying hens and muscovy ducks on his 30' by 106' property on Bloomfield Street in the north end of the city, in a $7,000 cedar hen house and coop—built without benefit of a building permit.
The problem is that Connors' hobby is not popular with his neighbours and other Halifax residents.
As well as making us live with a barnyard —right in the middle of a city—he is exposing us to the potential of decreased property values, the pesky varmints we call rats, mice, raccoons, allergies and serious health problems. Remember SARS, the avian flu threat and H1N1? Oh yes, that was another type of livestock (swine) and what about that "eau-de-hen"? This is a serious issue. The WHO and the CDC continue to issue serious warnings regarding chickens.
Simply put, the keeping of fowl or other livestock is not listed as a permitted land use and therefore is prohibited under the longstanding Halifax Peninsula Land Use bylaw.
Interestingly, in a statement at a public information meeting held on February 10, 2010, Fred stated that "he did not consider them [chickens] to be pets as they produced food."
In 2009, Nova Scotia's chief justice J.P. Kennedy ruled in a case involving Trevor Smedley, that his "pet" chickens are by definition fowl and they cannot be kept in an accessory building in an area that is not zoned as agricultural.
In 2008, Louise Hanavan was served with a Order to Comply, presumably citing the Halifax Peninsula Land Use bylaw and moved her laying hens to the countryside.
Fred was served with a similar Order to Comply in 2010. When he did not comply, HRM did not take action.
Further, a permit will only be issued for a structure that conforms to all applicable requirements of a bylaw. HRM's development and planning services has no record of a permit on file for the hen house as of February 22, 2013.
Complaints have been made to HRM about Connors violating the bylaw but, so far, officials are allowing Fred to get away with these violations and to duck the hefty fines for his bad boy behaviour that has such an unsavoury impact on the neighbourhood and HRM. And it's hard to know why. But Fred has stated that he is willing to have a court settle the issue, if that is what it takes.
On radio recently, Connors stated that action is taken in HRM on a complaint-
driven basis. Why then, are the complaints about his flock and hen house falling on deaf ears?
To date there have been no changes to the existing Land Use bylaw concerning chickens although there has been much rhetoric.
An effort is afoot again to amend HRM's bylaws to permit laying hens, as noted in the councillor Jennifer Watt's District 14 winter 2012 newsletter and by its inclusion in the Centre Plan consultation process.
I urge all HRM residents, particularly those on the peninsula, to call 311 or contact your councillor or email firstname.lastname@example.org, insisting on the enforcement of the bylaw now.
If we don't act, there could be formal approval allowing poultry in urban areas via the new proposed "RMPS" land use concepts of "open space" and "community form." Act now before chickens, ducks and even geese—and God knows what else—come to a backyard near you.