One person’s hobby farm dream might be another’s nightmare

hobby-farm-tnrdHobby farms are sometimes called “five acres of heaven.”

It’s an apt description. A couple of horses, some chickens, maybe a cow or two and a goat. Maybe even farm status if you meet the revenue requirements.

Great place to unwind and get back to the land after a day or a week at the office, and relatively unfettered by the strict rules that apply to urban properties.

And hobby farms are becoming more and more popular. The result is complaints of noise, smell and flies caused by too many animals on small acreages have become more frequent. As TNRD director of development services Regina Sadilkova puts it, “three llamas looking in your window.”

The TNRD is looking at some modest restrictions on non-ALR hobby farm living that, at first glance, might raise alarm bells.

“People are passionate about these things,” Sadilkova told a recent committee of the whole meeting.

Instead of just one definition of “livestock,” several categories are proposed: large livestock ranging from pigs to horses and cows, small livestock (like goats, sheep, and fallow deer) and poultry such as turkeys, hens, pigeons and rabbits. Yes, rabbits, simply because they’re interchangeable with poultry, size-wise.

It’s a bit arbitrary, but two acres should be enough for two cows or horses, two sheep or 40 hens or other poultry. Five acres can sustain five horses, pigs or cows, five goats and 80 hens (or 40 hens or 40 rabbits).

And 10 acres? Ten cows or horses, 10 sheep and a lot of turkeys or hens– 199 of them. Or, you could forego the cows and horses and add 30 goats.

The equations and substitutions can get a bit comical but, clearly, some guidelines are needed. The new categories simply try to recognize that livestock comes in all shapes and sizes and affects land use in different ways.

They attempt to answer the question, “What farm animals can I have on my property?”

The other part of the issue on non-ALR small acreages is outbuildings. A small shed or two or three doesn’t create an issue but super buildings on small acreages do. Some outbuildings are bigger than the house, might not even be related to farming, and create an intrusion on neighbourhoods.

New rules would limit heights and maximum areas for buildings based on parcel size. For example, lots under an acre would be limited to 25 per cent of the space being used for buildings.

A staff report explains the intention of the new provisions: “The proposed amendments are not designed to penalize the horse lovers with a few horses on their property, separate property owners from their hobby farm or thwart one’s ability to build a barn. The amendments also do not limit livestock keeping or buildings on large parcels or ALR lands as these are governed by the ALC and subject to policy set out under the ALC Act.”

The board has directed staff to bring forward suitable amendments to the TNRD zoning bylaw. Hopefully, by the end of the process, a hobby farm can still be five acres of heaven, and the neighbours next door can still enjoy their home as their castle.

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