SCUGOG: Manchester resident Tony D’Antimo is hoping to draw attention to - and potentially change - Scugog’s legislation governing where chickens can be kept by review of a related local bylaw, a request that seems to have resonated with local councillors and staff.
Mr. D’Antimo appeared before councillors last week. Earlier this year, he said that he was presented with a notice of non-compliance from a bylaw officer, the result of a complaint about the birds from another local resident. He said that he began keeping four chickens as a way of providing fresh eggs and to help naturalize his property near Hwy. 12. Prior to receiving the bylaw notice, he told councillors that he was under the impression it was legal to own chickens on his property.
"I bought the chickens as a method of providing nutritious and delicious eggs to my family, from a food source we control," said Mr. D’Antimo at the recent meeting.
"The highway is loud and dirty, but that’s progress - to combat the negative impact, I sought to plant a natural habitat on my property and I chose to add a few chickens. I thought it was legal to keep the birds here. Law abiding citizens shouldn’t live in fear of a potential $25,000 fine."
In addition to a stay on any potential charges he may face, he’s hoping to see council consider a change to the bylaw allowing hamlet residents to own up to five hens, adding that any such change must also take into account a neighbour’s right to be free of any noise and nuisance that the birds may create. The concept is not a new one, he pointed out, with cities such as Vancouver and Chicago allowing for the birds to be kept in certain residential areas within their municipal boundaries.
"This is happening in urban areas, not just municipalities with hamlets," said Community Services Director Don Gordon.
The matter of where chickens can be kept in the township falls under Scugog’s Zoning bylaw, which prevents the animals from inhabiting urban and hamlet areas in the township by defining their keeping for food purposes as a form of farming, which is limited to rural zoning. Mr. D’Antimo acknowledged that his property, which is located in a hamlet area, does not fit the description in the bylaw of where chickens can be kept.
However, that doesn’t mean the existing notion should not be challenged, he said, citing the potential health and environmental benefits from raising one’s own food.
Councillors cited a number of issues to be considered in any potential re-writing of the bylaw pertaining to chicken keeping, including the potential economic impact on local farmers as well as public health issues related to the keeping of the birds.
"My great fear is the potential impacts on the agricultural community," said Mayor Chuck Mercier. "It’s like dog owners - there are both good and bad ones. There’s also issues stemming from the threat of H1N1 - I just don’t know what the answers are yet."
Despite receiving a warning from Scugog’s bylaw department earlier this year, staff and councillors appeared reluctant to pursue any formal charges against Mr. D’Antimo during the recent discussion. While a bylaw spokesperson confirmed that charges are required to be pursued within 90 days of a resident being informed of their non-compliance, Mr. Gordon said that a review of the bylaw will likely be returned to councillors in the near future, possibly within the discussion of the township’s zoning bylaw update schedule to take place Feb. 10.