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Coming to Halifax council: Special byelection, floating yellow heart and backyard chickens

Halifax regional council is set to debate backyard fowl, discuss a byelection and consider how to combat an invasive plant.
Halifax regional council is set to debate backyard fowl, discuss a byelection and consider how to combat an invasive plant. Alexander Quon/Global News

Halifax regional council is back in session on Tuesday, and councillors will be looking at a full slate of topics.

When council convenes at city hall at 10 a.m., they’ll look to set a date for a special election, address an invasive species and settle a long-gestating debate on backyard fowl.

Here’s what is coming to council on July 30.

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Special election

With Steve Craig officially moving on to a seat in the provincial legislature, it’s time for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) to prepare the special election that will find his replacement.

Craig’s resignation was accepted by Halifax regional council on July 10, 2019.

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But that means taking care of some paperwork and allocating funds to cover the costs of the impending special election in the district of Lower Sackville.

Two staff reports are heading to council on Tuesday that will address the topic. The first report recommends that council appoint municipal clerk Kevin Arjoon as the returning officer for the special election and set Oct.  5, 2019 as the official date of the election.

The second report recommends Halifax regional council authorize a $250,000 budget for the special election.

The election is mandated by law so it’s unlikely the two reports will fail at council.

The special election will be the first municipal election to employ only electronic methods for recording votes.

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Discussion on backyard chickens likely to ruffle feathers

The debate over backyard chickens in Halifax should be familiar to most everyone in the HRM, and it has provoked many heated discussions between councillors.

Now, the debate is set to reach regional council once again on Tuesday as a staff report requested last year finally lands on councillors’ desks.

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Last year, council asked for a report that considers region-wide amendments on “the keeping and raising of egg-laying hens/chickens in all residential zone[s].”

The report to council is in favour of allowing chickens across the HRM but does not comment on the number of chickens that should be allowed per household.

It also gives no information on whether there should be a restriction on roosters.

Data provided by staff indicate that over the past 10 years, they’ve received 659 calls about chickens, 155 complaints about “unsightliness and smell,” 252 inquires about whether keeping chickens were allowed and 280 inquiries from people saying they wanted to keep chickens.

Current rules vary across the municipality, and the staff report recommends potentially changing the city’s animal control bylaw “to ensure nuisance, cleanliness and animal-at-large concerns are addressed.”

READ MORE: Residents cry fowl over 100 backyard chickens living in one of Victoria’s priciest neighbourhoods

Yellow floating heart in Little Albro Lake

Halifax is set to consider a pilot project to deal with an invasive weed that has sprung up in Little Albro Lake.

Staff have proposed that council give permission to use benthic mats to help control the spread of yellow floating heart.

The report says yellow floating heart is a freshwater ornamental floating plant native to Eurasia that was unintentionally introduced to Little Albro Lake in 2006, quickly growing to dominate the surface of the lake.

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In order to combat the invasive species, staff want to use benthic mats. The mats are made of “synthetic or natural materials that can be placed on a lake bottom” that will help control the plant by blocking access to light during the growing season.

The use of the mats is contingent on approval by the province’s department of environment, and the pilot project is expected to cost $25,000.

Staff expects to get the pilot project started by 2019-20, although if there are delays, it could be 2020-21 before it gets underway.