Carbonear couple raising a stink about deputy mayor’s hobby farm

By Mark Squibb/May 12, 2022

A Carbonear couple say they are not satisfied with how the Town of Carbonear has handled complaints about their neighbour, Deputy Mayor Sam Slade.

The couple made their initial complaint to the Town on September 11, 2020. Slade was a private citizen at the time.

In an e-mail addressed to Town CAO Cynthia Davis, the couple alleged Slade was pursuing farming and fish processing activities on his property that dampened their enjoyment of their own property. Several of the concerns related to the alleged keeping of pigs, chickens, and turkeys.

Brian Tucker and Paul Myers admit when they moved to Bunker Hill in 2017, they were aware of Slade’s farming activities, but that they spoke with him about that matter and thought that any problems could be worked out.

“But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he got the pigs in 2020,” said Tucker. “And the smell from the pigs was horrendous.”

The couple received a response from the Town dated December 23, 2020 — some three months after their complaint— stating that the Town’s Municipal Enforcement Officer (MEO) had visited Slade’s property to investigate, but did not find evidence of chickens or pigs.

When contacted by The Shoreline, Slade, a fisherman and former MHA, was willing to address the couple’s concerns, but asked not to be recorded. Slade said he did own pigs but that shortly after the neighbours spoke to him about their concerns, he took the animals to Bay Roberts to be put down.

When asked if he had a permit for the pigs, Slade said many people in Carbonear have a “right” to farm.

The letter from Davis to the couple, meanwhile, stated that “an inquiry on the turkeys identified that they should be removed from the property by now.”

Slade said he does hobby farm, and that he keeps about 20 broiler chickens for about six weeks at a time.

When asked whether he has a permit for them, Slade responded the provincial government is encouraging local food security.

Slade said he rears animals for his own fridge, and that he did it while living on the Back Road, and on English Hill, and that the couple knew he raised animals when they moved next door.

He said the MEO has never found an issue with anything he has done on his land.

“I have broken no rules and regulations of the Town,” said Slade, adding he’s going to continue to put food in his freezer.

In an e-mail, CAO Davis told The Shoreline that only areas zoned Rural allow agriculture and keeping of animals.

“The Town is in the process of preparing a request for proposals for a Municipal Plan Review,” Davis added. “This will be one area that will be included as part of the review of the Municipal Plan and Development Regulations. It is possible that there could be consideration in residential rural areas where there are large lots under certain conditions. Again, this will be considered as part of the review of the Municipal Plan and Development Regulations.”

Slade’s property, Davis confirmed, is located in a Residential Rural Zone.

“Agriculture is discretionary which allows keeping of animals for domestic purposes at council’s discretion,” explained Davis. “That could include chickens, pigs, turkeys, etcetera. An application is still required, but it is a discretionary use in that zone. When a use is discretionary, council is required to publish a notice and take feedback on the application before council makes a decision. Specific objections will be required and council can consider approving an application by adding conditions that may address a specific objection. Council also has the discretion to refuse the application, but it is at the discretion of council.”

Davis said the Town has not issued any permits for the keeping of chickens, turkeys or pigs on Slade’s property, nor could it substantiate that animals have ever been kept there.

“The Town did receive a complaint but when investigated by the Town, the complaint could not be supported,” said Davis. “The Town receives many complaints, and these are investigated and if there is a violation of the regulations, the Town will respond accordingly, but if an investigation cannot reveal a violation of the regulations, the Town cannot take action where there is no violation.”

She also noted there is no issue for a chicken coop but that “the town is not aware of Mr. Slade having chickens that require a chicken coop.”
Davis said the regulations allow for the keeping of up to 10 chickens, but doesn’t specify the type of chicken, broiler or otherwise.

“Anyone can apply to keep up to 10 chickens provided it is in accordance with the regulations,” said Davis.

When asked about the town’s 10-chicken limit, Slade said it applies to laying hens, and there is no regulation in place for broilers.

The Town of Carbonear Animal Regulations, which were approved by council in 2018, state that “the Town may refuse to permit the keeping of any animal which it considers offensive or likely to create a public Nuisance or health hazard or is perceived as causing a threat to public safety.”

The couple also allege that Slade has gutted and filleted fish in his yard.

Again, in its December 2020 response, the Town stated the MEO did not identify any smell around the property from cleaning fish.

In another e-mail to the Town, dated April 21, 2021, the couple said the handling of fish was “making the enjoyment of our property impossible!”

The Town responded in October 2021 to say it appeared the fish were being cleaned inside a shed.

“The committee felt that the activity occurred inside the shed that is a fair distance from your dwelling and felt that this activity should not create a nuisance to neighbouring properties,” the Town’s letter read. “Further investigation into your concern identified that the fish entrails are removed on the wharf and only filleting takes place within the shed.”

The letter also explained that many residents engage in the local food fishery and bring their cod home to clean, “which is not unreasonable.”

The Town’s letter added that in relation to the keeping of animals, “to the best of the Town’s knowledge there are no violations of the town regulations currently existing.”

Myers said it was upon receipt of that e-mail that they began contacting the media, and added it’s not unreasonable to expect that fishermen gut and filet their fish on the wharf.

Slade, meanwhile, said any fish fileted on his property are fileted in his shed.

The couple say they are disappointed with how the Town has handled their complaints.

They allege that an e-mail sent to each member of council in April 2021 went unanswered by all members of the then council, with the exception of Danielle Doyle.

“She was the only councillor, and we contacted all of the councilors and the mayor on a couple of occasions with a big, long letter, and we never heard not one iota from anybody except Danielle Doyle,” said Myers.

The couple say they also contacted Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Steve Crocker in January 2022, and that letter was forwarded to the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. A response to the couple, signed by Minister Krista Lynn Howell, informed them that legislation does not permit the Department to intervene in the matter.

“The responsibility for operational decisions and municipal regulations rest with the municipality, and the municipality is expected to enforce their own regulations,” wrote Howell. “As such I encourage you to continue your discussions with officials at the council office to identify a resolution. We will pass (along) your concerns by copying the Town on this response.”

The couple say they remain unsatisfied.

“It’s not fair to us, because we’re suffering from it, and it’s not fair to other legitimate businesses and people in town who can and get permits to do stuff,” said Myers. “And the worst of it is that now he’s the deputy mayor. It’s a kick in the teeth.”

“What we’re asking is for the Town to enforce it’s regulations,” added Tucker. “It’s there in black-and-white.”

“We’re not asking for the moon,” said Myers. “We’re not asking anything outrageous.”

“We’ve tried to follow the process that we should follow,” said Tucker, noting they spoke with Slade first, then the council, and then the Province.

“Bottom line, we just want to be able to enjoy our property, and that doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.”

Mayor Frank Butt said he doesn’t see much of a problem.

When asked if he had discussed the issue with the couple, Butt said he has spoken with them on other, unrelated issues.

Butt said when the Town receives a complaint, the MEO does a thorough investigation.

“If he goes up and finds that there’s really no cause or basis for the complaint, he’ll make that note and bring it back to council,” said Butt. “He might look around and see that there were no animals there at that particular time, or that there were animals there and they were all within the regulations, or what have you. But the enforcement officer takes over and he goes in and like I said, he does a through job.”

Butt said the Town often receives complaints from people about their neighbours.

“A lot of complaints come in from different people, and unfortunately the outcome is often not what the complainer wants,” said Butt. “If someone complains about his neighbour, and they think it’s a legitimate complaint, and then the investigator goes in and says, ‘Well, it falls within the regulations or the timelines,’ or something like that, they’re probably not going to be happy. They’re probably going to feel dissatisfied that it didn’t go their way, but we can only base it on our regulations.”

Butt said in the last two years, the idea of hobby farming and home agriculture has become more popular, and the Town has to take the benefits of homesteading into account.

He said if council was aware of someone raising farm animals or farming against town regulations or without proper permits, and that neighbours were not being negatively affected, there are three things the Town can do.

“We can either one; enforce the by-law or the regulation; or we can modify the regulation; or we can modify it and make sure that if we do get complaints, we will address it,” said Butt.

Pressed further, Butt said even if farm animals aren’t being a nuisance, the owner would still need the proper permit.

“If the regulations say you can only have so many chickens and you have to have a regulation for it, then of course you’ve got to follow the regulations,” said Butt. “But sometimes maybe our regulations are too stringent, and maybe we have to review them, so we can get people to live in harmony with one another and practise being good neighbours. But it all comes back to the regulations. If the regulations are there, of course you have to follow them. But sometimes, if they’re too stringent maybe we have to review them and adjust them accordingly.”

The mayor said the Town is open to amending certain homesteading regulations, especially as it relates to greenhouses, but admitted that when it comes to regulations surrounding the raising and keeping of farm animals, you’ll never make everyone happy.

“It’s a job to keep everyone happy, but we’ll do what we can,” said Butt.

As for the fish, the mayor allowed that it probably amounted to Slade’s recreational catch.

“With regard to Deputy Mayor Slade and his neighbours, I don’t think there’s anything really to that,” said Butt. “With regards to fish fillets and stuff like that, I think that’s local, personal use, and I’d say there’s probably 30 or 40 other people in the town at some given time doing the same thing. So, I don’t think there’s any malice there whatsoever between Deputy Mayor Slade and his neighbours, not on the deputy mayor’s part. I just hope that the neighbours would accept the findings and work together to get along. There’s nothing worse than having neighbours that are always disgruntled.”

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