The future of the birds and the bees – and also sheep, goats, and rabbits – in an Abbotsford neighbourhood prompted disagreement among council recently.
City staff had proposed creating a new zone for hobby farms in Abbotsford that would allow small-scale agriculture, with a suburban neighbourhood southwest of the city’s core set to be the first area considered for such designation.
The properties are located off Ross Road and south of Fraser Highway and outside of Abbotsford’s urban development property. One hundred homes are on half-acre lots, with another 21 on one-acre parcels. Since the neighbourhood was created in 1960, the area has been governed by five different zoning bylaws, which have allowed a range of agriculture. But in the last zoning bylaw, the properties were given an unintentional designation out of line with historic use and which permitted all types of agricultural activity.
The city consulted with residents earlier this year and staff proposed making the neighbourhood the first area designated as “Suburban Residential Hobby Farm.”
During consultation, more than half of respondents supported some type of agriculture. Residents were receptive to the raising of small animals, fowl, and fruit and vegetables, but were almost universally opposed to rules that would permit the raising of large animals or commercial agriculture activities.
The new zone would prohibit large animals on lots, including horses and cows; allow the raising of fruits, vegetables and bees; and put limits on the number of smaller animals permitted. Residents could have up to 20 poultry or rabbits per acre, or up to four goats or sheep per acre. Residents of half-acre lots, for example, would be allowed two goats.
Existing uses would be allowed to continue until they stop.
At a recent public hearing, council heard from local residents, including several opposed to the keeping of chickens.
They cited worries about noise and smells associated with animals, and that chickens in the area would attract rats and other rodents.
Couns. Les Barkman and Moe Gill both opposed the rezoning, citing the likelihood that the raising of chickens would result in a rodent problem.
Barkman had also previously expressed concern that some residents might try to obtain farm status by goosing their revenues to the $2,500 threshold, thereby depriving the city of tax revenue.
But Darren Braun, the city’s director of development planning, said that he has previously misstated the farm tax threshold.
While $2,500 is the point at which large agriculture properties can receive farm status that results in lower property taxes, for parcels smaller than two hectares, the threshold is $10,000.
Despite opposition from Barkman and Gill, the rezoning passed.
Mayor Henry Braun noted that the changes actually put more limits on agricultural uses and the raising of chickens. If council were to not act, he said, agricultural practices would remain unrestricted in the area.
“If we vote against this, we are actually saying everything is permissible. I will be supporting this for that reason,” Braun said.