I recently had a very eye opening experience into the bemusing world of municipal bylaws and zoning. As an avid gardener I grow a lot of my families’ food and I thought that a couple of hens for eggs would be a great addition to this. Keeping backyard chickens has really grown in popularity in the last couple years, but first I needed to find out if keeping backyard chickens is permitted in Elkford. I talked to the local bylaw officer and went online to Elkford’s website. After much searching I found what I was looking for — it was prohibited. I can handle being told no and fully understand the reasons for not allowing the keeping of chickens on a residential lot. What surprised me was the fact that I felt like I never needed to make a decision as a homeowner beyond paint colour again, the District of Elkford had already made all of the big decisions for me. How many cars I can park on my residential lot, how many pets I can house, how to landscape my yard, how many roommates I can have, how much of my lot I am able to cover with structures and so on, it’s all in there.
I was aware that in 2013 Elkford updated/amended the bylaws, but like most people I didn’t pay much attention. I think bylaws are completely necessary, please don’t get me wrong. I wonder though is the average Elkford resident aware that before they put up that Canadian Tire car tent, they need a permit from the district office? Sure you can put up that temporary structure (car tent or greenhouse) for a small fee, sure you can apply for a variance to build a little taller than is allowed for $50, but when do these bylaws become a cash grab? I am more aware of the bylaws now, however, I noticed countless violations. If we have hundreds of bylaws that are needed to keep order, why is it that the district can decide which ones to enforce and which ones to just ignore? Why include a bylaw if you don’t enforce it? Is it just in case you really need to throw the book at someone? It was encouraging to see a little more interest in municipal politics in this past election, but somehow it still feels like a forgotten issue for most, with the same old people making the decisions for all of us with little debate or public input. It takes a lot of hard work and planning to keep a town running smoothly and I appreciate the district employees, I love living in Elkford, but maybe there is more the district can do to get people interested in local politics and decision-making.
The district has done a great job branding our small town, putting on events like Winter in the Wild and Wildcat Days, however, they can’t only involve the public in these things while the powers that be make all the decisions regarding our properties behind closed doors with little public notice of what they are deciding. I remember reading a letter to the editor regarding the deer cull in Elkford. A resident wrote in stating that there was little public notice of this issue and he felt like it was done deliberately so the district could do what they wanted with little opposition. That is not the way to handle municipal affairs. At what point does it change from a district to a dictatorship?