Five chickens are shown in the shade next to coop on a sunny day. There's straw under their feet and a green plant on the right.
Chickens — Photo by William Moreland on Unsplash

Neighbours will have to learn to cope with some extra coops around the municipality after Halifax regional council voted unanimously in favour of legalizing chicken-keeping.

During its virtual meeting on Tuesday, council held a public hearing on bylaw amendments to allow residents in the suburban and rural areas of the municipality to keep hens in their back yards.

Municipal planner Ross Grant originally recommended a limit of six hens per lot. At a meeting in late-August, council voted in favour of an amendment from pro-hen Coun. David Hendsbee to increase the limits and create a graduating scale:

  • 10 chickens on lots of up to 4,000 square metres
  • 15 chickens on lots between 4,000 and 6,000 square metres
  • 20 chickens on lots between 6,000 and 10,000 square metres
  • 25 chickens on lots larger than 10,000 square metres

The rules also ban roosters, slaughter, and sales of eggs, chickens or meat. They require the hens to be kept in coops or fenced-in areas at least one metre from the property line, and they have to be in the back yard. There’s no licensing requirement for keeping chickens, but residents will be encouraged to register their roosts online.

Originally, staff proposed one set of rules for the entire municipality. Instead, the rules above will pertain only to suburban and rural areas.

In many urban areas — peninsular Halifax and Dartmouth within the Circumferential Highway — chickens are already permitted under the Centre Plan or previous rules. Once the second half of the Centre Plan passes (more on that below), the rules for all of urban HRM will be the same. They differ slightly from the suburban and rural rules, with a hard limit of 10 chickens per lot, and no setback from the property line for coops.

Only one person signed up to speak to the issue during Tuesday’s meeting: Ken Raisbeck of Colby Village, who has already had enough of hens in his neighbourhood. Raisbeck said he and his neighbours have concerns about health, vermin, noise, aroma, property values, and the siting of coops — all stemming from one hen-keeping neighbour.

“Property values are certainly going to be affected. Aroma is not the big point; noise and rats are the big problem and we have caught several ourselves,” Raisbeck told council.

Coun. Tony Mancini sympathized with Raisbeck’s concerns, and said they show another issue with chicken-keeping.

“The biggest concern I have is potentially this can put a neighbour against a neighbour because it’s complaint driven,” Mancini said.

Mancini sought assurance that council would review the rules in two years, and was told council already asked for that, and will get a report in two years summing up complaints and concerns at that point.

Coun. Pam Lovelace said she supports chicken-keeping, and it’s been going on in her Hammonds Plains-St. Margaret’s district forever. But she questioned why residents won’t be permitted to slaughter their chickens, given hunters in her area can process a deer or a bear in their garage.

“I’m trying to understand what the difference is between dressing a chicken and dressing a bear, and why it is that we’re not permitting folks to take care of their own chickens,” Lovelace said.

Grant, the planner, told Lovelace there are provincial rules around the preparation of chickens, and it’s best done in a licensed abattoir.

Lovelace also asked that staff make sure there’s a strong education program for citizens who want to keep chickens. Grant said the municipality would be working on videos and other ways of getting the message out about chickens.

After passing on Tuesday, the rules for the suburban and rural areas will come into effect when the provincial government signs off on the bylaw amendments, usually within a few weeks.

Also at council on Tuesday…

Second half of Centre Plan moves to final step

A public hearing for the second half of the Centre Plan is expected by the end of the month after a vote at council on Tuesday.

The Centre Plan is the set of land-use planning documents governing development in the regional centre of HRM — peninsular Halifax and Dartmouth within the Circumferential Highway. It’s designed to guide the city’s development for at least the next decade.

It’s been more than two years since council passed the first half of the Centre Plan, known as Package A. That package included higher-growth areas known as centres and corridors, including Robie Street, Quinpool Road and Gottingen Street, along with downtown Dartmouth and some residential areas.

Package B covers the rest of urban HRM, including downtown Halifax, lower-rise residential areas and institutional and industrial areas.

Once it’s all approved, most lots in the regional centre will be up-zoned with more development rights and a more straightforward and predictable approval process.

On Tuesday, councillors made some final tweaks before moving the bylaw amendments creating Package B through first reading. Those included amendments to maximum building heights on some public housing lots in downtown Dartmouth and the area near Bayers Road.

The plan is now to move to second reading and a public hearing at council’s Oct. 26 meeting, which is expected to happen in person at Halifax City Hall.

Amendments for Souls Harbour housing

Councillors have started a rezoning process for one of three projects recently recommended for federal housing funding.

At a meeting in late August, council voted to allocate $13 million in funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rapid Housing Initiative to quickly create 85 affordable housing units.

One of the recommended proposals was from Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, which wants to expand its women’s shelter on the Eastern Shore, adding 12 units to the property in a three-storey building for about $3 million.

But to go ahead, the property needs some zoning changes from HRM.

Citing concerns around security for the future residents of the apartments, the municipality is just listing the property as being in West Chezzetcook. In the report to council, municipal planner Jillian MacLellan wrote that it’s only zoned for eight units.

MacLellan recommended council “Initiate amendments to the applicable secondary municipal planning documents, including the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy and land-use by-laws, to allow the development of a shared housing use and multiple unit residential building that exceeds current density requirements” for the property.

The motion passed unanimously. Before moving ahead, those amendments will return to council for first reading and then second reading with a public hearing.

“To meet the conditions of the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) funding, the development must be completed within a year,” MacLellan wrote. “While staff will be expedient in their review and preparation of a recommendation report to Council, it is important to note that this will not compromise the intended objectives of the public consultation process.”

Underground wiring on Spring Garden Road

The municipality will sign an agreement with a Halifax developer to make sure power and communication lines in front the Mills Brothers development get buried.

Council approved a bonus zoning agreement on Tuesday with Mills Company Holdings Ltd., owned by Mickey MacDonald, Colin MacDonald, Danny Chedrawe, and Mounir Haddad. As the Examiner reported last month, the Design Review Committee approved the developer’s proposal for an eight-storey building at the corner of Queen Street and Spring Garden Road, with 216 residential units and 24,400 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

To access extra height provided in municipal planning documents, six metres, the developer proposed to bury electrical and communications infrastructure in front of the building on Spring Garden Road.

The municipality is already burying that infrastructure on the rest of Spring Garden as part of its streetscaping project, part of which is delayed because of the development. A member of the Design Review Committee questioned the value of the arrangement, given it’s happening anyway.

In the report to council on Tuesday, planner Andrew Faulkner wrote that the required value is about $200,000, and the developer’s proposal is estimated to cost $300,000.

Council unanimously approved the agreement.

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Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Oct 26, Public Hearing for Package B Centre Plan:
    Chickens are definitely more interesting than the Centre Plan but “once it’s all approved, most lots in the regional centre will be up-zoned with more development rights and a more straightforward and predictable approval process” is actually code for a free give away to HRM developers for millions of dollars of development rights with nothing in return.

    Confused by the jargon and a long process? Here’s an example-a developer may now have had his properties up-zoned from 3 storeys to 30 storeys, demolish affordable units and not have to give anything in exchange. Or heck he may just go from 2-storeys to 8-storeys. Either affords the developer thousands to millions in profit.

    The public do not have a clue they have no recourse. And there is no new green space being added. Vancouver (google Patrick Condon), Toronto and other cities that have swallowed the densification via towers now know that besides profit for developers it leads to speculation and inflation of land values, reduced competition with soulless homogenized architecture, commodification of housing and re-developments that inflate housing prices.

    Perhaps worst of all there is also no accounting for carbon or GHG emissions- the taller the building (over 6-storeys) the more intense the ghg associated with the building materials. Improving operational energy for towers in general in a failure. Code Red for Humanity has not turned us green.

    There are better options for densification with low-rise buildings that preserve existing housing and can be completely carbon neutral or positive. 3-D modelling can help identify these spaces. HRM does have a role in affordable housing (remember Armoyan’s 5 extra storeys?) but the route it is convenient to blame the province. Public land (St Pat’s, Cogswell, QEHS, Halifax West) that’s been sold could all have had requirements for public amenities-Bloomfield is the one case where that may happen.

    The public hearing on the 26th is the last chance to be engaged and participate in the Centre Plan-can we please ignore the ‘chickens as distraction’ until after that date?