WATCH ABOVE: After more than 20 years, a farmer in southeast Edmonton may lose his flock of sheep. He has been given until Sept. 20 to relocate the animals or face a hefty fine. As Lisa Wolansky reports, the city says it hopes to work with the farmer in the move.
EDMONTON — A hobby farmer in southeast Edmonton says after more than 20 years he may soon have to part with his flock of sheep, after the City of Edmonton ordered him to get rid of his animals.
David Koch’s 1.14-acre property in the Ellerslie area has been in his family since the 1960s. He and his brother bought three sheep in 1990 to help keep the grass trim, and his herd has since grown to 50 animals.
“I believe people should be able to be self sufficient,” Koch said. “It’s nice that as far as possible you’re able to grown your own food, if tomorrow the gas stations didn’t work we could still get to work, we’d still find a way to survive… We should have little bit of that knowledge and I think these help provide that.”
That was until a city bylaw officer came upon Koch’s herd, sort of by accident.
Keith Scott, a coordinator with the City of Edmonton’s Animal Control department, says an officer was driving by Koch’s property one day and saw several sheep on the side of the road. After speaking to Koch, the officer learned his property was not zoned for livestock.
According to Edmonton bylaws, livestock are only allowed on property that is zoned for agricultural purposes; Koch’s land is not.
“He’s walking them down major arteries, across from the school, so there’s a lot of concerns that the city has with him having them,” said Scott. “The bylaws are in place and the zoning rules are in place in order to try to minimize the impact on the citizens.”
“This is a livestock operation and even though the neighbours are okay with it, it is actually illegal under our zoning bylaw,” added Mayor Don Iveson.
Koch was told he has until Sept. 20 to get rid of the sheep or face a fine of $500 per animal, totalling $25,000.
Animal control says the bylaws are in place for a reason.
“As soon as we open it up to, for instance, him in his area, then we’re going to get it opened up all across the city where people will stay saying, ‘Well, pigs should be allowed and goats should be allowed because there’s benefits for either of those animals.'”
Iveson says the city is not taking “aggressive enforcement” and will work with Koch to either help relocate the animals or apply to have the property rezoned.
“I understand no ticket’s been issued; I understand a warning’s been issued and I think that’s appropriate,” said Iveson. “I think the city is being very thoughtful about working with the landowner to bring him into compliance.”
Koch says his sheep are very mellow and easy to manage. His neighbours have never complained about his flock, he added; in fact, several of them have asked for visits.
“When people see it they’re almost awestruck,” he said. “You have this herd of 50 animals and they’re following you like little obedient things and once you get into routine they just love it. And it’s basically like they’re almost the most trainable animal you can get.
“Compared to other animals they’re basically harmless, not trouble makers.”
Koch hopes to speak to city council later this summer to see if there’s any way the city will reconsider its decision or change the bylaw.
“You just make sensible rules where, if all the neighbours are okay, then you’re okay,” he said. “There’s little hope that if at first you don’t succeed you try, try again, and I guess that’s what I’ll do.”