A select few Mission backyards will soon be home to chickens and bees, as council experiments with a new pilot project.
Council decided on June 21 to allow urban areas to apply for the program, which would allow anyone with a 5,000 square-foot property to have up to six hens, or two hives.
“I’ll say simply this, I live beside two apiarists and bees don’t fly miles and miles and miles. They fly in a radius,” said Mayor Paul Horn. “Typically what the benefit of it is in the local area, is that people who have gardens, fruit trees and so forth, will see their yield go up.”
Over the past decade, numerous delegations have come to council requesting changes be made to municipal bylaws, which only allow beehives and chicken coops in suburban, rural-residential and rural-zoned areas.
Late last year, a senior couple who had been flagged by bylaw enforcement officers for keeping chickens spoke before council, arguing that other municipalities even encourage this activity.
In January, staff were told to create the parameters of the project. A graduate student from UBC with experience in the field worked with staff to evaluate other Lower Mainland municipalities and create a framework.
Approximately 10 applicants will be permitted to participate in the pilot project. They will have to review the requirements, apply to the city with a site plan, register with the province, notify their neighbours, receive staff approval, construct proper coops (if they haven’t already), and undergo a municipal inspection.
The project will use temporary use permits, which allows council to be flexible and make changes or revoke permits if necessary.
Keepers in rural and suburban areas will be contacted to see if they’re willing to act as mentors for the newbies, and staff would consider testing out beehives on apartment, townhouse or apartment rooftops if available.
The pilot project will be re-evaluated in the Fall of 2022, by staff, neighbours and the participants to determine whether a permanent bylaw change is viable.
Staff are hoping that people with “illegal chickens and bees” come forward to participate.
“If we’re not aware because there haven’t been complaints, I’m imagining that they’re probably been doing a pretty good job of keeping their chickens under cover,” said Dan Sommer, director of developmental services.
“The onus is on the applicant … on how fast they get their hens in a row.”
Coun. Ken Herar, who was the only vote against the bee keeping portion of the project, said he had concerns over the impact urban bees could have on wild populations after reading that there was some disagreement on the issue.
Herar also brought a motion to require participants to display signs on their property notifying people of the presence of bees.
Coun. Cal Crawford and Horn disagreed, fearing it would deter participants, cause unnecessary concern and cost, and slow things down. The motion was defeated.
Horn encouraged the community to understand the bylaw department will try to be mediators, and focus on fixing potential issues and concerns rather than shutting down activity if problems arise.
“I know this has been a journey, and I want to thank all of our staff, and all the citizens who patiently waited as we navigated this,” Horn said.