Saint John studies bylaw change to allow urban farms

Saint John is moving closer to changing a city bylaw that would allow small urban farms, such as backyard chicken coops, in the city.

Coun. Ray Strowbridge says citizens should be allowed to keep backyard chickens

Saint John is considering a bylaw change that would allow backyard chickens. (CBC)

Saint John is moving closer to changing a city bylaw that would allow small urban farms, such as backyard chicken coops, in the city.

City councillors are expected to send a bylaw amendment to the planning advisory committee for review at a meeting on Monday night.

The zoning bylaw change would allow citizens to keep up to six chickens on a residential property.

Coun. Ray Strowbridge has been pushing the city to adopt a proposed chicken bylaw. He said allowing the backyard birds falls in line with the city's Plan SJ initiative, which calls for more "urban agriculture."

"If that's something people want to do and they want to have organic eggs for breakfast every morning then that's their business," he said.

Strowbridge said the city will impose certain provisions on the urban farms.

If the bylaw change is adopted by council, it would end a long-standing dispute between the city and Raymond Breau.

Breau said city bylaw officers came to his residence in the spring of 2011 and asked him to get rid of his backyard chicken coop.

He said he quickly found himself trapped between advice given by different city departments.

"At first I kind of argued it because it didn't say anything in the bylaw. And the planning department was saying, 'There's nothing in there so you can.' And the enforcement department was saying, 'You can't,'" he said.

Breau applied for a one-year temporary approval to keep the birds, but that came to an end last summer.

He is now waiting for a final decision from city council on whether he can keep his chickens.

Other cities studying urban farm rules

Saint John is not the only city in New Brunswick examining its bylaws surrounding urban farms.

In May, Fredericton began inviting its residents to comment on a series of proposed bylaw changes, including urban farms.

Fredericton received 617 responses to its survey on urban farms. The city's website said 88 per cent of those responses were not opposed to citizens having backyard hens.

Fredericton's bylaw review committee proposed a series of conditions and standards for keeping chickens in residential areas.

The proposed zoning change would apply to single, detached houses in certain areas of the city, there could be a maximum of three hens and the eggs or meat could not be sold.

In July, a Moncton woman said the process of drafting an urban farm bylaw in the city was taking too long.

Anne-Marie Laroche kept four chickens in a backyard coop as a part of a pilot project. When the pilot project ended in the spring of 2010, she gave her chickens to a local farmer.

She is still waiting for a bylaw that would allow her to get new chickens.

An official with the Greater Moncton Planning Commission said in July the municipal bylaw changes, which would include backyard farms, are expected go to council sometime in 2013.