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Backyard hens debate carried over to next council meeting

The urban hen debate will return to the next Grande Prairie city council meeting. Council couldn’t agree on giving third reading to a bylaw that would allow residents to raise hens in their backyard at a meeting Monday night.

Their discussion was held in front of a packed room, of which a large portion were there to support the Grande Prairie Urban Hens group. However, there were also a few residents who spoke against the proposed plan.

Concerns were raised about the noise, smells related to waste, and predators that could come with allowing the animals. Resident Kris Arcand also expressed concern about the the impact on property values for the hen owner and surrounding homes, something resident Susan Schneider is also worried about.

“I know there’s no hard data about lowering property values but I can see that it would lower my property value. I’m very quiet individual,” Schneider says. “I do not want to hear clucking all day long. Dogs and cats, they can go outside they can come inside. Chickens are outside all the time.”

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David Braun with GP Urban Hens responded by saying there has been no impact on property values in other municipalities where backyard hens are allowed. 12 other municipalities around Alberta permit backyard hens, of which some are permanent programs while others are still pilot projects.

If someone applied to have their own chickens, Enforcement Services Manager Chris Manuel says a neighbourhood notification would be needed. All surrounding properties would be approached and if a concern was raised it would be assessed by city staff, who would make the ultimate decision.

Manuel says he has responded to one illegal chicken coop in his time with the city but it is far from a common issue. He doesn’t think it would be hard to monitor should the bylaw pass in the future.

“As you heard here today, there are lots of hurdles to overcome before somebody has an opportunity to participate in this.”

City administration has recommended approving 10 Livestock Exemption Permits for a one year term. After that the program would be re-examined to determine its future.

Rebekah Keyes with the GP Urban Hens group says the outcome of the meeting was disappointing but their fight isn’t over. This is the third time the topic of Urban Hens has been before Grande Prairie city council. It was raised in the summer of 2017 and also in 2015.

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