County discussing changes to residential land use bylaw, potential allowance for backyard hens, beekeeping

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wheatland County council has both passed the first reading and has scheduled a public hearing for bylaw 2021-34, which is designed to make a series of amendments to the land use bylaw 2016-01.

The proposed bylaw is currently written to implement textual changes, introduce new uses and consolidate others, modernize the language and provide clarity to existing regulations and application requirements within land use bylaw 2016-01.

Areas under consideration include wineries and alcohol production, parks and playgrounds, backyard hens and coops, backyard hives and bee supers, manufactured dwellings, landscaping, fencing and screening and rear-yard setbacks for accessory buildings. 

Administration is recommending these changes to the bylaw in order to add new uses, consolidate and remove contradicting uses and clarify definitions throughout the land use bylaw.

One subject, which became of particular concern to council, was regarding the proposed update to backyard hens and beekeeping.

According to administration, the majority of responses received from residents living in Speargrass and The Lakes of Muirfield were in opposition for permitting backyard hens and beekeeping.

In response, county administration removed provisions for backyard hens and beekeeping in the Speargrass, The Lakes of Muirfield and Eagle Lake communities.

In mid-December, notice was circulated regarding potential amendments to the land use bylaw for all residents within Wheatland County. Included within the notice were the amendments to allow backyard hens and beekeeping in all hamlet and residential communities.

The bylaw proposes that hens and their coops be added as a discretionary use to the hamlet residential general district only.

Councillor Rick Laursen raised concerns both for the safety of the animals in extreme cold weather, as well as the safety of their keepers from harmful bacteria and associated hazards with keeping hens.

“Chickens are notorious for carrying salmonella and campylobacter bacteria – campylobacter is a reportable disease from Alberta Health Services and I just think we need to be careful with that,” said Laursen.

According to Reeve Amber Link, the proposed bylaw outlines what would be required of coops for domestic animals. Further, an education program would be implemented as changes to the bylaw are implemented, should the changes pass third reading.

First reading of bylaw 2021-34 was passed and a public hearing for the proposed bylaw has been scheduled for Mar. 22.

This item is reprinted with permission from Strathmore Times, Wheatland County, Strathmore, Alberta. See article HERE.

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