|Today's date: Friday May 24, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 21|
We Cover The County...
Residents want less restrictions on keeping animals - sort of
by Mike Robinson
Residents are divided when it comes to animal keeping in town.
On July 3, councillors here held a special public meeting at the Hillsburgh Community Centre.
Mayor Lou Maieron stressed this was a public information meeting proposed animal keeping bylaw.
Following a presentation by planner Sally Stull, residents had the chance to speak on what was proposed.
Although the room at the Hillsburgh arena was full, less than a handful of individuals signed an attendance sheet at the back of the room.
“We’re here to listen to your comments, suggestions and concerns,” Maieron said.
Anne Burr said that her husband Robert had researched the areas around Erin.
She said not one prohibited the keeping of pigeons, “they are regulated, not prohibited.”
“The word prohibit scares me,” Burr said.
She also questioned why Hillsburgh it described as an urban village.
“To me, it is rural, which is why many people chose to move here.”
Burr recommended the municipality bring in an animal expert, to review the bylaw.
“Deciding on the number of buildings doesn’t take into consideration the welfare or size of the animal.”
Mayor Lou Maieron noted the bylaw currently only allows for an accessory outbuilding of 100 square feet.
“Whether it is a storage shed, or whether there are chickens in it, would in a roundabout way limit the person who wanted to keep 100 chickens in an urban setting.”
Planner Sally Stull clarified that in the realm of planning, Hillsburgh and Erin are designated as the urban centres within the municipality - under the Planning Act and within the town’s zoning bylaw.”
Burr countered “this a rural area and that needs to be taken into consideration.”
Brian Keeble asked “Why is it so important to get rid of a guy’s hobby? Pigeons are not farm animals. They are raised for pleasure only.”
“You’re going after a guy who raises a couple of pigeons to have a good time. It seems like a witch hunt to me.”
Keeble was concerned that the proposed bylaw stemmed from one complaint against one person.
Maieron stated that this came about because of the absence of a bylaw.
Keeble also questioned whether the town had anyone to enforce a bylaw.
The town is currently reviewing applications for a bylaw enforcement officer.
Keeble continued “if you are not going to enforce the bylaws you have now, why make a new one?”
Maciej Biernacki said he operates a reptile business on the First Line of Erin.
Biernacki said that like birds, reptiles are moving in realm of being pleasure animals.
However, in years past, there have been misunderstandings.
Biernacki said with reptiles such as Komodo dragons, special ownership permits are needed.
Before people react with the fear of reptiles out there, he asked whether there had been problems of that type in Erin before.
He did not want to see one group of people with particular interests, pitted against another group with other interests.
“We have to see how it affects the whole municipality.”
He had concern of all that happening and then facing an enforcement issue.
Biernacki added “a lot of exotics that people keep are not necessarily dangerous.”
He said the majority of reptile owners should not be associated with the few who are reckless.
“I believe the same can be done with the pigeons.”
He appealed for moderation from all involved in the debate.
Biernacki later asked council whether it was more focussed on the pigeon issue - or the broader picture.
He suggested that instead of looking at the Kitchener example it might be better to look what region of Toronto had done.
He considered that bylaw as representing both the interests of public safety and various interest groups.
Others such as George Silva found it ridiculous that cities such as Victoria and Vancouver allowing backyard hens, while council was contemplating a blanket ban on any livestock in Erin on properties of less than two acres.
While he empathized with the Bell family living next to a property with so many pigeons.
“An entire community does not need to be penalized over one incident.”
Silva argued that there are numerous benefits to keeping farm animals.
He contended that so much has changed that the issue deserves better than a rehash of an archaic bylaw from the 1980s.
Linda Devonshire commented that in downtown Orton it started off with one family having chickens to almost all the community having them.
She noted that while Orton may be considered an urban setting, none of the properties are two-acre lots, but everyone has agreed to have chickens.
But, she asked, “At what point do urban and rural [boundaries] stop?”
Mary Jo Vanderlinden stated “I have two chickens and I love them like pets.”
She said it may seem silly, but added the chickens have personalities.
“Their coop is clean and there is no smell.”
Vanderlinden did not believe she should have to give up her chickens because of a problem somewhere else.
“Someone would eat them, and that would be sad.”
She clarified that she did understand the situation with the pigeons.
“They do poop a lot,” Vanderlinden said.
She believed that Andy Bell and his family were not exaggerating the impact of the pigeons to their property regarding the smell and the mess.
“But I also understand the love of the birds”
Vanderlinden asked whether cats would be banned because one ripped up a neighbours lawn.
“No that’s stupid.”
Hillsburgh resident Andy Bell made it clear that he’d never asked for a complete abolishment of pets such as pigeons or chicken.
“What I was looking for were limits as to how many [pigeons/birds] people could keep on a property.”
He said that having over 100 to 200 pigeons on an acre lot is a lot different than a property a quarter that size.
Bell also said there should be distance regulations to minimize the impact on neighbouring property owners.
“If anyone wants to live next to this ... make me an offer.”
He added that if a person lived on a quarter-acre lot in the middle of the country with no nearby neighbours “who would you be bugging?”
“But a subdivision, is not a place to keep a bunch of animals,” Bell said.
He had no issue with a person wanting to keep a chicken to have an egg or two.
“But when there are five coops next to the property line ...”
Fred Byers stated “I’m the guy who owns the pigeons.”
Byers said he moved here 28 years ago, “the bylaws in Hillsburgh were good for my business.”
He agreed that he has several outbuildings on his property, but that his neighbour has five.
Byers invited anyone at the meeting to check out his operation to see for themselves.
“Don’t be voting based on lies and innuendo, come and see what we have.”
Councillor Barb Tocher said the proposed bylaw is just a starting off point for discussion.
“The bylaw [as it stands] is very much like using a sledgehammer to put in a pushpin.”
She agreed the proposal is a bit heavy, but did its job in generating discussion.
Tocher said there are a number of issues, one of which is an agricultural property located within the urban area of Hillsburgh.
She said that limiting the number of animals based on the size of property might be a good solution.
Councillor Deb Callaghan said that in her tenure as bylaw enforcement officer, the cases were complaint driven and animals were removed based on the health of the animals.
She added that in the past, “you had the protection of this bylaw, you just didn’t know it.”
“I don’t think this bylaw will be the issue you believe it is.”
Maieron said commercial operations on residential properties might be another way of looking at the issue.
“We certainly don’t want to create a bylaw that is Draconian to either rural or urban people, but we need to have something in place when neighbours can’t work it out.”
July 20, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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