An ingenious, green-minded plan to clear-cut an unsightly vacant city centre property has fallen foul of Richmond’s animal control bylaw.
Landscaper Sandy Chappell was called in the spring by a developer to hack back a parcel of land adjacent to McDonald’s restaurant on Alderbridge Way that was overgrown with 15-feet high blackberry bushes and thick bamboo.
Chappell used heavy machinery to get the work done in July, but by the end of a long, hot summer and a wet late August, a lot of vegetation had grown right back.
So Chappell, who also keeps a 60-strong herd of sheep on three acres of land in Cambie, came up with an environmentally-friendly solution — send his sheep out to graze.
“I’ve been doing these clear-cutting things for years and years,” said Chappell.
“But, instead of using heavy diesel machinery again, I thought it would be a great idea to put some sheep in and have them eat the rest instead.
“This used to be a farm after all; the foundations of the barn are still there and this is good, agricultural land.”
Chappell insisted there’s plenty of natural shelter on the land for the sheep under large trees. “They prefer to sleep outside anyway,” he added.
Chappell was asked by the landowner, Modern International Holdings — which has applied to rezone the land from auto-oriented commercial to build a nine-storey hotel — to cut the vegetation back, after being ordered to do so by the city in May.
However, it claims they had no knowledge of the landscaper’s novel green plan to keep the weeds down.
And as inventive as Chappell’s plan is, it contravenes just about every single sub section of the city’s bylaw on the control of domestic farm animals.
As such, the city has ordered him to get his sheep off the property as quickly as possible or face fines.
City spokesperson Kim Decker, while acknowledging the tactic was unusual, said the bylaws are in place to protect the welfare of the animals and the public.
“I thought, seeing as the city is going on about being green all the time, this was an environmentally-friendly way to clear the rest of the property,” said Chappell on Friday.
“It would take the sheep, Barbados in breed, about six weeks or so to eat through the juicy bushes and grass on offer.
“They’ve already made a dent in it in just two days.
There’s some really difficult weeds to get rid of here and they’ve already chewed them right down.”
The sheep, said Chappell, get some “great natural food, the owner gets the property cleared and the environment doesn’t suffer; everyone wins.
“And I think people would love to see sheep grazing in the middle of the city centre, especially on an otherwise vacant piece of land, something to look at for a change.”
Chappell said ultimately, he hopes to grow his herd to around 400 and get into lambing.
“But I also have this idea to start up a rent-a-sheep business for people who need this kind of thing done,” he said, adding that he got the idea from Europe.
“I think it would be a great idea in this city and very, very green.”
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