Thursday, July 18, 2024
July 18, 2024

Poultry group appeals to LTC

Salt Spring land use officials had words of encouragement but few answers for small-scale poultry advocates, who seized a moment during a regular meeting with agricultural leaders to press trustees for help protecting their flocks. 

The meeting held Thursday, May 30 was a regular session for the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) to have a discussion with members of the Salt Spring Island Agricultural Advisory Planning Commission (AAPC) and representatives of the Salt Spring Island Agricultural Alliance (SSIAA) on agriculture-related issues.  

For Salt Spring Island Poultry Club executive member Elsie Born and supportive club members, it seemed a ripe opportunity to urge trustees toward advocacy — for islanders who raise poultry generally, and for Salt Spring resident Clint McNichol specifically. According to court documents, McNichol is facing seven counts of Capital Regional District (CRD) bylaw infractions at his 0.92-acre Woodland Drive property related to noise from a rooster kept there. 

“People have bought property where they’ve been told they’re allowed to farm, and now are being either ticketed or taken to court,” said Born. “It’s very frustrating for small-scale farmers to start up on Salt Spring — and I think it shouldn’t be. Those are the people we want here.” 

Court documents show McNichol’s first appearance in Victoria Law Courts was in May of last year, two weeks after he shared redacted images of what appeared to be an official summons for the seven counts on social media; that undated document indicated McNichol had been charged with keeping livestock — specifically a rooster — on his property, contrary to a CRD bylaw requiring animals be kept in a manner that does not disturb the  “quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of other property owners in the vicinity.” 

The CRD bylaw in question does have an exception: “except in an Agricultural Zone.” The Islands Trust has two agricultural zone designations on Salt Spring Island, Agriculture 1 (“A1”) and Agriculture 2 (“A2”). The property where violations are alleged to have occurred is zoned Rural (“R”), which — as far as the Islands Trust is concerned — indeed allows livestock.  

But similar to how provincial building codes prescribe how zone-permitted buildings are constructed, the manner in which livestock is kept is not within the purview of the Islands Trust. Planner Chris Hutton explained during Thursday’s meeting that while the land use powers the Trust exercises are significant, they are not the only authority on Salt Spring.  

“We don’t really have a direct authority over what regulations the [Capital] Regional District puts in place,” said Hutton. “However, they do not have [our] ability to create land use regulations. We’re essentially parallel entities; we regulate in the same space, but in different ways.” 

Trustees were asked whether they could add stipulations or amendments in their bylaws — “so livestock noise is not something you can complain about,” suggested small-flock poultry grower Donna Saffel. LTC members seemed to agree that would be outside their authority. But with full-throated support for agriculture on Salt Spring broadly, trustee Laura Patrick said the LTC was planning a joint meeting with CRD officials in the near future — and suggested that the issue should be part of that meeting’s agenda. 

“We want to make sure that agriculture is maintained, grows [and] thrives,” said Patrick. “We want to enshrine that use, because to me this is Salt Spring — this is what it is, and what’s so important to me is the agricultural base of our island.” 

Trustee Jamie Harris returned to his well of criticism for the Islands Trust, suggesting the issue was yet another that might be solved by the island becoming a municipality, and worried trustees stepping in might turn into more restrictions, not fewer.  

“We clearly don’t want to have more regulation and say OK, you can’t do that,” said Harris. “Maybe it’s up to people that are farming to sort of use their better judgment as far as getting along with your neighbours goes.” 

The latest court appearance for McNichol on the bylaw infractions was set for Monday, June 3; CRD officials have indicated they would not be commenting on the issues surrounding the case until court proceedings concluded. 

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