Towns may merge on hen proposal

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 11:23 am

Diamond Valley CLUCK member Margaret Krichbaum (centre), with Heather Gillis (left) and Berri-lynn Evert, is happy Turner Valley councillors are suggesting working with Black Diamond to put together a committee that will determine the potential for a backyard hen pilot project in the two communities.
Diamond Valley CLUCK member Margaret Krichbaum (centre), with Heather Gillis (left) and Berri-lynn Evert, is happy Turner Valley councillors are suggesting working with Black Diamond to put together a committee that will determine the potential for a backyard hen pilot project in the two communities.
Wheel File Photo

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A foothills town council is looking to partner with its closest neighbor before deciding whether it will allow residents to raise hens in their backyards.

During its committee of the whole meeting on April 7, Turner Valley Town Council discussed partnering with the Town of Black Diamond to strike a committee that would gather information and establish rules to determine the viability of operating a pilot project allowing residents to keep hens in their backyards.

The suggestion is expected to come to council at its next business meeting on April 22.

“It would make sense also for the CLUCK (Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub) club to have the same kind of setup from both communities, said Deputy Mayor Dona Fluter.

Members of the Diamond Valley CLUCK chapter, formed last summer, approached Black Diamond and Turner Valley councils in January with the idea of developing a backyard hen pilot project. Members described such benefits as allowing residents to grow their own organic food, improving the health of the soil and reducing insects and weeds in their yards.

The club proposed working with the Towns to monitor and enforce cleanliness of henhouses and offer education to participants for henhouse designs, cleaning and predator protection.

The topic has been discussed by both councils, although no decisions have been made. Black Diamond held a public information session on Feb. 24 allowing Diamond Valley CLUCK to present the proposal to the public.

Fluter said before Turner Valley council comes to a decision she would like administration to consult with the Town of Black Diamond and consider starting a committee in a combined effort consisting of council members and CLUCK representatives to develop a proposal for the pilot project.

She said a collaborative effort on the project aligns with the friendship agreement the two communities signed in 2012, which was established to have the Towns collaborate on a variety of projects and initiatives.

“It’s just like when we do our animal bylaws,” she said. “We try to keep them almost identical and move in that direction of continuity.”

Coun. Barry Williamson said he supports the idea of the communities working together on the pilot project.

“You’ve got two communities side by side, each looking at the same issue,” he said. “It makes sense we compare notes and look at consistency and pool resources and get some clarity on this thing.”

CLUCK member Margaret Krichbaum had hoped to see the pilot project begin on June 1, but she’s happy to wait.

“I feel positive,” she said. “I feel like both councils want to work with us. I will be happy with any start date.”

Both Towns posted a survey on their websites last winter asking residents what they felt about the pilot project, what their concerns are, what they see as benefits and how long they think the pilot project should run.

The results of the Turner Valley survey were presented to council in the agenda package and reveal of the 102 residents who completed the survey 72 per cent support the initiative, 23 per cent don’t and five per cent are undecided.

It also showed the majority of supporters felt the pilot project should operate for two years, as opposed to one year or 18 months.

Comments made by those surveyed were mixed. Some said it’s a great idea for healthy living and food sustainability while others are concerned about the disposal of waste and policing the project.

Verna Staples, Town of Black Diamond legislative services manager, said although Black Diamond’s survey results haven’t been released, of the 223 people who took the survey 57 per cent support the project.

She said a request for a decision regarding the project is going to council on its April 16 meeting.

Krichbaum said she’s heard a lot of positive comments from people about the pilot project idea and hopes to see it take flight.

“Most people are really supportive,” she said. “Not all that many want to have chickens themselves but many people are fine with the idea.”

Krichbaum said she’s been in contact with planners in both communities regarding the project and feels there is a positive response from the Towns as well.

“I feel like everything is going great and I’m really happy with the way both councils are handling it,” she said. “They are all asking good questions.”

After attending last week’s council meeting in Turner Valley, Krichbaum hopes council pursues the direction it discussed.

“We just have to strive for this joint committee and once it’s formed hopefully set up rules and regulations,” she said.

Among the work required beforehand is researching similar pilot projects in other Alberta communities to determine their successes and failures, Krichbaum said.

“I hope to do some touring myself and learn styles of management that’s the best for people, discuss different methods to keep (the henhouses) clean and which ones are the best,” she said. “Right now we’re trying to look at potential coop designs. There’s a lot to figure out still.”


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