Council decided to throw information-based decision making out the window last week, denying a test project that could prove the feasibility of a viable idea and approving changes to a bylaw that will be basically unenforceable.
The decision to deny a pilot project to challenge the feasibility of allowing backyard chickens in town flew in the face of science-based governance and its own mandate.
As a community that, by policy, promotes sustainability, backyard hens are a perfect fit, yet councillors had a plethora of nonsensical reasons to deny the pilot: fears about increased predator activity, cost to homeowners wishing to participate, lack of interest and the expense to train bylaw officers to enforce the new rules.
Topping their list was the suggestion there is little interest in the community for the idea. That is despite the fact dozens of people attended multiple council meetings in support of the pilot.
The pilot would have also provided solid answers to other concerns such as increased predation, which has been disproved in communities such as Okotoks following a recent test run that led to a permanent bylaw in favour of urban chickens.
Worrying about the cost to homeowners is absurd, considering those who can’t afford the expense of housing chickens and complying with the bylaws likely will not be applying to do so.
A pilot is designed to gauge all the concerns councillors asked without committing beyond the yearlong test run. Good governance would have given the project a chance so the decision could have been based on actual evidence.
To compound the inanity of the evening, councillors worried about the extra work a chicken pilot would pile onto bylaw officers, while in the same breath approved amendments to a smoking bylaw that can only be enforced if officers focus on little else.
While there is an interest to separate smokers from children, especially around public recreational facilities, the new regulations are not feasible and will, in essence, force people to break the law.
It is unlikely anyone will take that extra 10 to 15 minutes required to walk off the property at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre to have their puff, especially in the dead of winter.
They will likely hide around the back of the building or get into their vehicles – which would still be in violation of the bylaw. The only way the town will be able to prevent these now-illegal acts is to have an officer stationed at the sports centre all day long.
That sounds like a much greater waste of resources than hypothetical instances of bylaw officers responding to complaints about backyard chickens – something other pilots have shown very little of.
Council is elected to make decisions that respect multiple interests, but are also based on sound research and evidence. Last week, those tenets were tossed to wayside.
Such lazy and shortsighted decision-making is worrisome, especially with much bigger issues such as traffic congestion and rampant development on council’s plate. Residents deserve and expect better.