Prov Bay artisanal chicken farmer concerned about new sea bin bylaw

SPRING BAY—Spring Bay artisanal chicken farmer Glenn Black is no stranger to fighting city hall, or the provincial and federal government for that matter, and he has proven the old adage that “you can’t fight city hall” wrong on numerous occasions. This round Mr. Black is sounding the alarm over a proposed ban on the use of sea bin containers to house people or animals being put forward in a new bylaw from the Central Manitoulin council.

Mr. Black recently issued a press release under the headline “Municipal bylaw fatal for family farm” in which he states that “a proposed change to Central Manitoulin’s restrictive zoning bylaw will be fatal for a small family farm.”

In the press release, Mr. Black noted that he and his wife Judy “specialize in producing safe, tasty, nutritious, locally produced foods such as pastured poultry, free range eggs, lamb, and goat from their 100-acre farm in Central Manitoulin.”

In the press release, Mr. Black asserts that if the proposed Central Manitoulin bylaw were to go through as written, “my farm is dead.” Mr. Black went on to explain in the release that his family farm uses sea containers “in an extensive way: to store animal feed and seeds, on-farm storage, as a brooder for their baby chicks, and for storing the fresh and frozen meats produced by the farm.”

“We customized a 40-foot sea container to be a world-class brooder,” said Mr. Black. “Without that brooder, we can no longer raise pastured poultry. Without the income from our poultry operations, our farm cannot survive.”

When contacted by The Expositor, Central Manitoulin CAO Ruth Frawley agreed that bylaws are not retroactive, and that “things would have to be grandfathered in” under the new bylaw, should it pass. “That is the way these things are normally done,” she said. “Bylaws are not retroactive.”

Mr. Black maintained that, if that were to be the case, the bylaw could still be problematic, noting that the municipality’s previous interpretation of its bylaws were that “if something was not expressly permitted, it would not be allowed.”

The issue of sea bins and storage containers being used as accommodation for humans and/or animals has been an ongoing challenge in the municipality.

“This proposed bylaw specifically prohibits using a sea container to house animals,” he said. “This is the fourth time that Central Manitoulin has proposed a bylaw to ban sea containers. The previous three attempts to pass a sea container bylaw were abandoned due to significant problems in the wording of the bylaw and there was a strong public backlash.”

Mr. Black maintains that the wording of the current bylaw “doesn’t help anybody.”

He noted that the municipality was responding to complaints about the use of sea bins on properties around the municipality, but if operations such as his were to be grandfathered in, the people who have voiced opposition to the sea bins would be left unhappy as well.

“The people who are against the sea bins will see people continuing to get away with it and the new ones will be prohibited,” he said. “It will be frustrating for everybody.”

The addition to the bylaw that concerns Mr. Black states: “Shipping containers or portable storage containers shall be defined as per the industry standard as a standardized, resealable transportation box for unitized freight handling with standardized equipment, and for the purpose of this bylaw a shipping container or portable storage container shall mean a container, also known as a sea bin, used for the transportation of goods by air, sea or land. A shipping container or portable storage container shall be considered to be a structure or a building and is to be used for storage purposes only and not for human or animal habitation.”

The bylaw goes on to permit temporary placement of the containers, stating: “Temporary placement only of shipping containers or portable storage containers shall be allowed in a hamlet, settlement or shoreline residential zone for a maximum of one year, during the period of construction for which a valid building permit is in place and shall be used for the storage of materials only. Permanent or temporary placement of shipping containers or portable storage containers may be allowed in all other zones by permit only and only as directed by the municipal shipping container or portable storage container policy.”

The statutory public meeting for the new shipping container bylaw is scheduled for the June 9 at either 7 pm or 7:15.