A Whitehorse subdivision is no place for a hog.
That was the message from 40 Raven’s Ridge residents who signed a petition asking the City of Whitehorse to bar a hobby farm in their neighbourhood from adding hogs as planned.
The petition was presented at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 23 meeting, with residents of the area — Sarah Johnson and Kevin Embacher — speaking to the petition signed by 40 residents in 22 of the 36 households in the neighbourhood.
Raven’s Ridge is unique in that the 1.5- and two-acre properties are in an urban area off the Alaska Highway, but zoned for country residential use compared to smaller, residential lots in other urban subdivisions around town.
While the petition calls on the city to disallow hogs, it also asks that the other animals on the property — two goats, chickens and turkeys — continue to be permitted, provided waste is managed in accordance with city bylaws. The petition asks for the removal of an electric fence in favour of a different type of material that residents argue would better suit the neighbourhood.
As Johnson explained, the city’s zoning for urban agriculture has little in the way of specifying livestock types or numbers permitted outside of specifics for laying hens.
That has left residents concerned about the addition of hogs on a 1.5-acre property, with little recourse outside of a petition.
“Hogs are notorious for their noxious smell, noise, bugs, and volatile solid waste excreted in copious amounts,” Johnson said, adding that according to Statistics Canada, one hog produces between one and four kilograms of manure daily.
That waste goes directly into the ground, and could result in potential nitrate contamination, she said.
“The noise smell, pasture, significant nitrate loading and erosion presents a major health concern for our community,” Johnson said. “Hogs are also a bear attractant. WildWise Yukon states that small livestock such as pigs are highly attractive to predatory wildlife, such as bears, cougars, foxes, weasels, coyotes, Lynx and birds of prey.”
“We would like to avoid potential boil water advisories, contaminated wells, negative bear encounters, euthanized nuisance bears and other associated safety and health risks,” she said.
Embacher also cited a number of studies and statistics to argue against the addition of hogs to hobby farms. He also called for the electric fence on the property to be removed, arguing it could be psychologically damaging to children in the neighbourhood.
“According to British Columbia’s Ministry of Agriculture fencing fact sheet, standard fences are constructed to form a physical barrier, whereas the electric fences are constructed to form a physiological or mental barrier,” he said. “If an animal or person is not able to separate from an energized electric fence serious damage, possibly death will occur.”
An electric fence, he argued, is inappropriate for an urban lifestyle and contravenes a section of the city zoning bylaw requiring fencing materials to be consistent with the area’s character.
Speaking to reporters following the Jan. 23 council meeting, Mayor Laura Cabott said there are some areas where hobby farming is permitted, such as Raven’s Ridge. While council heard from delegates about the petition, no formal recommendations have come to council yet.
“Administration will provide us with some more information and we’ll go from there,” she said “It’s pretty early days on that.”
Responding to a request for comment, the farm owners – Lisa and Andy Preto – said they have been in contact with the city and Yukon government departments to invite discussions and site inspections after complaints about the property were made.
“Subsequent to these discussions and on-site property tours, authorities have informed us that we are in compliance with the bylaws and regulations relative to all complaints brought up by this neighbour,” they stated in an email, going on to note they will be reducing the number of hens on their property to six by April at the request of the city.
Speaking specifically to the petition presented to council, the Pretos said they weren’t aware of it prior to the council meeting.
“We have not seen its content,” they stated. “We, therefore, are unable to comment on any of the petition’s content.”
They did point out though electric fence is in compliance with Yukon government rules for sheep and goat owners and there is a Yukon government sign at the front of the property stating that approval.
“Our small scale (country residential) hobby farm reflects our family’s desire for personal food security and a healthy lifestyle for our family of four,” they said. “We are hoping to raise two hogs for personal consumption and they would be on the property for five months of the year.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org