Westminster resident Rachel Vezina is on a mission to change a city ordinance to allow for backyard chickens, ducks and bees. The horticulture student recently acquired 300 petition signatures in support of allowing Westminster residents to raise these animals and maintain honeybee hives in residential zones. She then took her signatures to the April 14 city council meeting to plead her case on the importance of urban agriculture and sustainability.
“With Westminster focusing on sustainability, recycling and being green, I think that we could also add urban agriculture as one of those focuses,” she said. “I know there are numerous citizens who believe they have the right to have poultry produce of their own.”
Currently the ordinance does not allow livestock in residential zones, which includes chickens, ducks and bees. And although it’s illegal, Vezina and her boyfriend Clinton Gale have raised both animals in their 2-acre backyard in the past. Vezina said because of the law, she and Gale have been fined for having the animals, but she’s never had any complaints from neighbors about the animals.
“No one has even come to our house and complained about the chicken or the ducks,” she said. “We’re trying to live a sustainable life and with the huge popularity of urban agriculture, I don’t see why having these animals should be illegal.”
Others in the community agree. Shirley Perrault spoke in support of the ordinance change during the council meeting and said she believes having chickens in the back yard is a good thing because they provide nutritional eggs and help clean yards by eating insects. Robert Newton, a bee keeper, is also in support of the change. He’s hoping to bring back his bee hive.
“I had two hives for a year-and-a-half and when I pulled them out, my neighbors were outraged because they loved them so much,” he told the city council. “There is a quite a benefit to raising bees and hopefully we can do something.”
At this point, city council will have to discuss a possible change in the ordinance before any action is taken. Councilman Bob Briggs said the issue will first need to be addressed during a study session to decide the next steps, followed by discussion during a city council meeting, which will also allow for public comment for and against the issue.
Briggs is in support of the change to allow for chickens, ducks and bees in residential areas. He said Westminster’s historical background is agriculture.
“I support giving people a choice. We make no restrictions on cats and dogs, so I don’t think we ought to make restrictions on chickens, bees and ducks,” he said. “Not everyone is going to want those animals, but those who do deserve the choice.”