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Much ado about chickens

Although the idea of keeping backyard hens ruffled the feathers of some on Penticton council, a pilot program passed at Monday's meeting.

After a heated discussion, the council voted 4-3 on the issue, with Mayor Garry Litke and councillors Wes Hopkin, Judy Sentes and Andrew Jakubeit for and councillors John Vassilaki, Helena Konanz and Katie Robinson opposed.

"I've been a promoter of this from day one, i grew up on a farm and have always been a gardener," said Litke. "I see this as another choice people can make, and it's a great opportunity to rectify some of the negative trends in how we feed ourselves." 

Frankly the opposition mystified me, he added.

Robinson and Konanz were particularly outspoken on the matter.

Robinson stressed that people who want to have chickens should move to the country, and she didn't want them living next door to her.

She was also concerned about people who have already been fined for keeping the chickens being considered for this pilot program.

While Konanz said the city doesn't have the manpower to handle this and there could be a problem with abandoned hens.

"Our SPCA is stretched enough. I don't think SPCA or dog control should have to take care of hens also," she said.

Staff is recommending a maximum of 15 properties be able to participate in the program so that properties can be selected in a variety of areas in the city.

At the same time, they want it to be manageable for the city's planning and bylaw departments  during the 18-month time frame.

Conditions of the temporary use permit, which requires notification of adjacent land owners, include no more than five hens may be kept on site, no hens may be slaughtered on site and no roosters are permitted.

The pilot program was considered last year by council, but did not move ahead. It was revisited at the urging of Sentes and a presentation was given by residents Aaron Quast and Lana Barr at the last council meeting.

The Penticton couple purchased chicks last year, anticipating the program was going to move ahead. When it didn't, they ended up keeping the hens and were fined by the city for doing so.

Quast said he was happy the program is happening now, but is worried about what Robinson said during the meeting.

"This is important to us, because it's a much bigger issue at stake here," he said. "But obviously we are concerned if the people responsible for bringing this back are not included."

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