Friday, April 16, 2010

Urban Chicken controversy comes to York Region

As I discussed in my article Things I want to see for Newmarket,

"I also want moves towards the legalization of small urban livestock, hens, rabbits, dwarf goats as part of a greater Right to Farm legislation.
Many urban municipalities in the U.K. and U.S. are once again allowing the ownership of small numbers of well tended food animals. These towns realize that peak oil will eventually impact food production and shipping costs making local food relevant again."

Now I understand that most people don’t want to see animals being slaughtered in the neighbour’s back yard but there is no rational reason that a person should not be allowed to raise a few chickens in a clean, rooster free environment for the production of fresh eggs. A ½ dozen chickens is quieter than a 100 lb dog, produce less waste, are less likely to hurt anyone and are great waste diversion/composting machines. Why should the municipality pay (and the people be taxed) to process green bin contents that can be converted to healthy food in peoples very own yards. The added value to the urban farmer is a supply of quality fertilizer for their gardens.

This brings you to the question “why are you going on about this topic yet again?”

Read this story “Coop ruffles town’s feathers” about East Gwillimbury’s move against a small, clean, urban chicken flock and you'll see why I'm up on my podium again.

While this story does not fit the Newmarket focus of this blog I would be doing the same thing as Mr Froats if I had a bit more time and room, I support the efforts of anyone who promotes urban farming and healthy food and besides I’ve met Jason and his family and they are good people.

If you support Jason’s struggle join the York Region chapter of CLUCK, (CANADIAN LIBERATED URBAN CHICKEN CLUB. For those who are residents of East Gwillimbury please contact your mayor and councillors and ask them to modify or repeal this law.

The CLUCK organization has been speading quicly with a number of local chapters forming around the country in recent months to educate the public and fight poorly designed animal laws. Recently Vancouver has voted to allow chickens and Calgary has backed off an outright ban in favour of a trial program to see if their urban chicken people can opperate without pissing off their neighbours.

In the meantime I hope this story encourages foodies, greens, or civil libertarians in Newmarket/Aurora to follow Jason’s lead in challenging irrational bylaws.

I bet Jamie Oliver would approve!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Newmarket’s While Elephant

Last night there was a Newmarket council meeting and vote regarding the possibility of a $3 million cost overrun on the renovations to Newmarket’s Old Town Hall. As this recent Era Banner article states the town set the original cost before an architect even fully assessed the job.
“The original $5.9-million figure was submitted with grant applications before an architect was called to see what needed to be done with the building to prepare it for the transformation.”

I pretty sure that most of these councillors would not call a contractor to gut their home based on their own estimates and then hire a professional to work out the real price after the fact, so why are they so willing to do so with our money? It’s not as if this is a small cost overrun either. The article mentions an additional $2.4 million would be needed but spectators at last nights council meeting are talking numbers over $3 million and of course we won’t know for sure unless the town spends another $150k to get a more accurate estimate. The way this is going we could be 50% or more over budget, good governance? Good planning? Good councillors? You decide!

Personally I think this is totally irrational; this job should have been fully assessed at the very beginning and compared to the cost of a new building. Old does not make a building valuable, it might make it historically significant but it’s not valuable unless it maintains utility and affordability. This building is quaint but is that enough? Why not just tear it down and build a new one from scratch using the same styling queues but with modern techniques, or just incorporate the north fa├žade into a new building, at least cost out such an options for comparison. As it is I don’t thing this project is a good value and before this is over we will be hitting $9-10 million, what else could we have gotten for $10 million?

Last night’s vote was to supply the additional $150,000 needed to fully cost the job but a tied vote failed to solve the issue. Next Monday’s Council of the Whole (April 12) will address this issue again so I think its important that tax payers use this extra week to contact their councillors and express their concerns over what appears to be gross mismanagement in costing this job and let them know your opinion on whether we should spend the money for the full renovation, a scaled back version or cancel the whole thing. Even if you don’t agree with my viewpoint, be heard! Too few of us make the effort.

Oh by the way here is the newest take on the story and a list of who voted how
The vote:
Mayor Tony Van Bynen,
Ward 1 Councillor Tom Vegh,
Ward 3 Councillor Victor Woodhouse
Ward 5 Councillor Joe Sponga

Regional Councillor John Taylor,
Ward 2 Councillor Dave Kerwin,
Ward 6 Councillor Dennis Ramsarran and
Ward 7 Councillor Chris Emmanuel

Absent: Ward 4 Councillor Larry Blight