City to hold public consultation on proposed hen and honeybee bylaws

City to prepare separate bylaws to allow for keeping of hens and honeybees in city limits, and hold public consultations on the proposals.

The City of Williams Lake will prepare separate bylaws to allow for the keeping of hens and honeybees in city limits, and hold public consultations on the proposals.

In a report to council staff noted over the last few years city staff and council have been asked numerous times about the topics of back-yard chickens and beekeeping in residential areas of Williams Lake.

“We’ve had a fair bit of interest from members of the community,” said acting CAO Geoff Goodall. “We’ve done some initial investigation on what other communities are doing in B.C. and it appears that quite a number of them have bylaws dealing with both of these issues.”

Beekeeping and raising chickens in urban settings is becoming quite popular, he added.

Staff suggested the best approach is to do some research to create some model bylaws and then go out to the public for feedback to see if the community wants to go in that direction.

“When we bring bylaws back for first reading we will bring council a draft for communication and all the available opportunities for public engagement,” Goodall explained.

Mayor Cook acknowledged the city is still at a very “preliminary” stage on the issue.

“I look forward to hearing from the community,” she said.

Coun. Surinderpal Rathor raised concerns about the beekeeping.

“We can control the chickens and hens, no problem, but bees are a concern,” Rathor said, adding that he’s done some research of his own since the first discussion council had with staff about hens and bees at the committee of the whole meeting on March 26.

Some residents have told Rathor they don’t want to have bees in residential areas of the city and that they are tough to contain.

“At this point of time I cannot support the bees bylaw in the community because it could be very dangerous for any young child or a senior citizen. Bees are not going to see who you are and are not usually in love with everybody.”

People who raise bees will have protective equipment, but their neighbour probably won’t, he said.

Coun. Sue Zacharias said she doesn’t know much about raising bees, however she is looking forward to the bylaws being brought to council.

“Chickens and bees get a bad rap, but it’s definitely something being talked about in other communities,” Zacharias said, adding she’s been receiving more positive feedback than negative.

The keeping of hens and bees support the Local Food and Agriculture Strategic Priority in the city’s official community plan, the city stated in a press release.

“Localizing food production has the potential to increase food security and reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint. In addition, hens can also help reduce lawn and garden pest populations, an environmentally friendly alternative to pesticides. Hens are also an effective way to minimize house hold waste, as they can be fed a wide variety of food scraps, which currently end up in the landfill.”

Coun. Ivan Bonnell said there are several regulatory guidelines the city would have to investigate.

The hens received council’s unanimous endorsement, while Rathor voted against the bees.