The 15 Million Dollar Goat

Photo: Ross Arbo
Photo: Ross Arbo

An eleven year old girl in Saanich is petitioning her municipality to re-write bylaws to make it easier to own miniature goats in residential areas. She argues that miniature goats can provide pure milk and natural fertilizer, are excellent lawnmowers, and asserts the bylaws (maximum two goats on lots larger than 1.6 acres, and the goats must be females, neutered males, and dehorned) are too restrictive.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell says he supports her idea, and the process to reconsider the bylaws is underway.

This fun little nugget of news appeals to the media on a few levels – the age of the petitioner, the trend of backyard farming, and, of course, the quirkiness and popularity of goats – so the story has grown some legs and prompted a few letters to the editor and national exposure.

Saanich would not be alone should they ease the goat restrictions – I could find a number of cities that allow goats with restrictions in the city – Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland are good examples.

But like all media we consume, we tend to view it with our own lens. So, let’s talk about goats in New West.

Just like chickens, which have always been allowed in our backyards, New West already allows livestock in residential areas. No petition to City Hall required!

Curiously, the bylaws governing urban livestock and poultry aren’t in the recently overhauled Animal Care and Control bylaw (Sidenote: excellently re-written, New West – kudos), but rather in the Public Health Bylaw, # 4271, last revised back in the 60’s, but written in the 30’s. I double checked with the City that the bylaw still stands, and sure enough, the helpful people at City Hall confirmed that yes, Bylaw 4271 is alive and well, though quite infrequently accessed.

Feel free to read them all yourself in all their rickety PDF glory: the poultry and rabbit bylaws start on Page 2, and the animals section – which refers to cows, calves, horses, mules, sheep and goats – starts on page 3. Note the absence of pigs – Bylaw 4271, 9 (a) states pretty clearly that that keeping of swine is forbidden.

Like most cities that allow goats, there’s some tight conditions to keeping them, so tight in fact, that it’s basically impossible unless you are a kooky and/or goat loving billionaire. Development of the city means we have very few unused large plots of land, and those that don’t have some sort of building on them are privately held. The bylaw states (among other things);

9 (b) No animal shall be kept in any shed, pen, or other enclosure situated at a lesser distance than 150′ from the nearest dwelling, place, or house, nor less than 25′ from any road, street, or lane.

9 (c) No animal shall be allowed on less than 1 acre which shall be exclusive of land occupied by dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (d) For each animal, 1 acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (e) For each additional animal, one half acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (f) The maximum number of animals on one site shall be five (5).

An acre is 43,560 square feet. My 1912 house sits on a lot roughly 5,000 square feet. It’s a bit smaller than the average lot, a long skinny thing with smaller frontage than typical, but still not the smallest lot in the city. Even if I had no house, shed, or garden (which I have all of), I’d need nearly 40,000 extra square feet. Calculating for the 18 houses on my block (I’m on a cul de sac), I’d say I’d need roughly $15 million dollars to buy all my neighbour’s properties, knock them down, and install my goat into his/her yard.

That’s one expensive goat.


This is a post from our new monthly series, Ask Arbo, in which I answer questions sent in by you! Quirky and random questions about our fine city encouraged! What do you want me to find out? 


Stay cool, New West: Summer fun at spray parks, splash pools, and beaches

Summer heat came early with a May that was one of the driest on record, and it’s only getting hotter. Thankfully, New West has a pretty great list of spray parks, splash pools and even a couple beaches where you can suntan on hot sand.

Spray Parks: Open from 10am-7pm, Victoria Day to Labour Day

  • Queens Park – A classic spot for summer fun, the thick trees of the park make it easy to find a shady spot to cool down. The spray park features a water table feature for toddlers as well as a varied collection of sprinklers for older kids and adventurous tots to run through. The spray park is next to the Queens Park Petting Zoo (open 10am-5:30pm), a concession, and the Rainbow Playland playgrounds.
  • Moody Park – Located Uptown at 6th Ave. & 8th St. next to the playground, this older spray park is earmarked for an facelift soon. Water lines were recently upgraded in preparation for the new spray park. I’m not sure when the new spray park is due to be installed, but this could be the last summer to enjoy the tree-stump sprinklers in the old park.
  • Ryall Park – Next to a toddler playground, an all-wheel park, and the Queensborough Community Centre. The community centre includes a small branch of the New Westminster Library – a good spot to step out of the sun for a while to check out a book or do a puzzle with your kids.
  • Sapperton Park – Blessedly close to Starbucks and a short walk from Sapperton SkyTrain, this smaller spray park at Sherbrooke & East Columbia is a great spot to meet up with friends. I often find at larger parks like Queen’s, the kids run off to play in different areas. It’s hard to keep up a conversation while you’re chasing them to opposite ends of the playground! At Sapperton Park, the kids are always within eyesight, which makes it easy for the parents to enjoy their “playdate” too.
  • Old Schoolhouse Park – Not a true spray park, but this Queensborough park includes a playable water feature for kids where they can get as wet as they want to. At Ewen Ave & Derwent Way.
  • Hume Park – Resurfaced in May/June 2015, this is now open for business! Really nice re-do of the splash park, that uses recycled tires for the surface – non-slip and a bit squishy on the feet.  Located off East Columbia Street in Sapperton.

Outdoor pools – Open from the last weekend in June until Labour Day

  • Moody Park – The newest pool in New West is conveniently located in leafy Moody Park. Changerooms are clean and spacious, and while the pool isn’t the biggest around, it is a beautiful spot to cool off in summer. Open for public swim from 1:15 to 7:55pm in July & August. Adult swim from 8-9:25pm on Tuesdays & Thursdays; youth swim from 8-9:25pm on Wednesdays.
  • Hume Park – Pair your swim with a walk through the trails in Lower Hume or take the kids to the new adventure playground next to the pool. Hume Park is great fun. Open on fair weather days from 1:15pm-8pm.
  • Grimston Park wading pool – Open from 12-4pm in July & August, this is one of the few remaining free, public wading pools in Metro Vancouver. Staffed by a lifeguard, who often brings water toys and may offer face-painting if you are lucky. Grimston is a lesser-known park in New West, located in the West End a short walk from 22nd St. SkyTrain.

Free admission to Moody Park Pool & Hume Pool on weekends, and just $2 for adults / $1.50 for kids and seniors during the week.


  • The not-so-“secret” beach in Queensborough is a lovely and quiet little patch of sand. You probably don’t want to go swimming in the fast-moving Fraser River, but you can cool your feet at the river’s edge and benefit from the cool air off the water and surrounding shade trees. Located off the Port Royal Riverfront Walk, on the Poplar Island side.
  • The Pier Park Urban Beach is accessed via the Quay boardwalk and a new pedestrian overpass at 4th Street (via the Parkade). While you can’t go swimming here, it’s breezy and beautiful, with trees and sun umbrellas for shade and even hammocks to relax in. The City is adding new water ‘misters’ to provide some relief from the heat (should be complete in the second week of July).

Further afield: 

When a beach where you can swim is the only thing that will do, you have to settle in for a bit of a drive or public transit adventure. Here are a couple of favourite ‘field trips’ from New West:

  • Our family’s favourite swimming beach near New West is Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay Park in Delta, which is about a half-hour drive away. It’s a long, sandy beach with shallow water that heats up to the temperature of bathwater. When the tide is in, you can go out wading until you are just a tiny speck on the horizon and still not be more than waist-deep. When the tide is out, the area is full of tidepools to explore. There is a playground and concession near the main parking lot, but if you are willing to walk a ways you can usually find a quiet spot in the seagrass where you can spread a picnic blanket. Just remember to bring lots of sunscreen and your own shade: it’s mostly scrub bush and grass out there rather than trees.
  • Sasamat Lake’s White Pine Beach is 40 minutes away and features a beautiful beach surrounded by mountains and tall evergreens.
  • English Bay Beach in downtown Vancouver is 40 minutes by car or an hour by public transit. The beach is gorgeous, and you can pair your visit with a walk around the Stanley Park Seawall or a bit of Robson Street shopping in the West End.

What about you? Where do you go to cool off on a hot summer day?

The first New West parklet goes to …. Sapperton!

Today on Twitter, Mayor Jonathan Cote announced the city’s first parklet will be built in Sapperton near Fratelli Bakery and the new Bloom Bloom Room flower shop.

If I didn’t know how long it takes to get things done at City Hall, I’d think the Mayor of New Westminster must be reading my blog.

The first of five parklets planned for the city over the next five years, the East Columbia parklet is expected to be finished this summer. The City’s goal is to create one new parklet per year over the next five years.

New West blogger Brad Cavanagh revealed he actually watches council meetings, beating me to the punch on his blog with a pretty great summary of what a parklet is, and what the City’s plans in this direction are:

For those who don’t know, a parklet is a mini park set up as an extension of a sidewalk. They’re not very large, typically fifteen to twenty meters long, and about three meters wide. They’re places for people, set up to allow people to meet, sit, and relax. Vancouver has five parklets, and they’ve been big hits almost everywhere they’ve been put in.

Yep, those are the very same kinds of public spaces I raved about after coming home from NYC: little enclaves of social civility and peace amid the hustle and bustle of sidewalks and streets.

Coming upon a parklet introduces a wee frisson of joy during a walk through a city. But it isn’t just a feel-good move. It’s actually a savvy economic development move. Cavanagh’s post shares links to studies in other cities that found adjacent businesses typically see between 9-20% more business following the installation of a parklet. Good news for Fratelli, Bloom Bloom Room, Sushi Heaven and the other businesses at that end of East Columbia!

But what about parking? As Sapperton resident Jen Arbo put it, the boon to businesses will far outweigh the loss of a couple of parking spots.

Councillor Patrick Johnstone also wrote about the parklet in a council meeting summary post on his blog:

Parklets are great ideas, and they can really improve the pedestrian and retail space in a commercial district. The City is piloting our first Parklet this summer in Sapperton, with plans to introduce another annually (at least) for the next couple of years. Staff has been given a modest budget, but a lot of flexibility to find partnership opportunities, design ideas, or creative innovations to make the Parklets fit local needs in our different neighbourhoods. I was really happy Council endorsed this program, and that staff is not only excited to implement it but have provided a really nice design for New West Parklet #1.

The initial reaction from both businesses and residents was pretty positive on Twitter:

But not everyone was pleased. The announcement irked at least one Quaysider, where gardening budgets have been cut back:

What can I say? New West loves its greenspace. Note to council: Don’t mess with our parks.

Looking to New West for cheaper rent, we found the perfect place to call home

Leafy Columbia Street.
Leafy Columbia Street. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

I made my first appearance in this world as a raisin-faced baby at the Royal Columbian Hospital, and as such, New Westminster is listed as the city of my birth. The reality, however, was a touch different—New West disappeared in the rearview immediately, as my parents sped my little infant self back to our home in South Vancouver. Since then, I’ve lived in North Delta, East Van, South Burnaby and North Burnaby. Heck, I even spent a few ill-advised months living in Australia. For so much of that time, New West seemed like nothing so much as a thoroughfare, a collection of SkyTrain stops, medical offices, and visits to powdery grandparents who, if you were lucky, might let you help yourself to their ancient bowl of melted and mutated ribbon candy.

When my partner and I decided to move in together in 2012, our search radius was narrow. We wanted VANCOUVER, in all its green, foodie, lululemon-y glory. Though our budget wasn’t especially constrained (or so we thought), we were soon frustrated. Anything big enough for us both was either outrageously expensive or confined to a dank basement with the prospect of a nosy landlord living directly above. Anything in our budget was either teeny tiny or attached to an alleyway littered with bug-infested mattresses. Not stunning prospects, in short.

Westminster Pier Park pedestrian overpass
One of Katie’s favourite haunts: Westminster Pier Park (as seen from the new pedestrian overpass at 4th St.) Photo: Katie Nordgren

Eventually, we had to relax our location demands to “near a SkyTrain. ANY SkyTrain.” The moment we expanded our Craigslist parameters, it was as if the clouds parted and the sun began streaming in. We were looking just as the Azure 88 buildings became available, resulting in dozens of attractive, conveniently located rental listings. When all was said and done, we had rented a massive two bedroom with a stunning river view, for the same price as the aforementioned dank basement. Spitting distance from Columbia Station, our commutes suddenly became that much more tolerable for avoiding the dreaded early morning bus transfers. Initially, we were just happy to be getting a good deal on housing – something that is increasingly difficult in Metro Vancouver. Slowly but surely, however, we fell in love with the community.

I’m an ambler by nature, not much given to hardcore fitness, but a lover of a long, purposeless walk. This has proved to be great for getting to know the area; I’ll motor through the side streets of all the individual neighbourhoods South of 10th Ave, stopping at anything interesting on the way: Pier Park, Queens Park, Quayside, all the lovely heritage homes in Brow of the Hill, the list is endless.

That was how I found myself at the Royal City Farmer’s Market one steamy Thursday afternoon, it was all I could do to not propose marriage to the handsome devil who poured plump raspberries into my hands, as a generous free sample. A stellar tactic too, as I ended up buying several pints which I immediately devoured. I then narrowly avoided committing further bigamy at the samosa stand. The heart wants what it wants, and apparently what my heart wants is food.

Speaking of marriage and matters of the heart, I married my sweetheart at the Metro Hall on Carnarvon St., a mere block from our apartment building. We had an evening ceremony, and spent the early part of the day together luxuriating in local comforts: Breakfast at the Hide Out, and a thorough pampering at Limina Spa. As we walked hand in hand to our venue, glittering in our finery, a car slowed as it passed. A gentleman several sheets to the wind leaned out from the passenger’s side window to drawl “You guysh… You guysh are the perfect couple for each other.”

And this is the perfect place for us.

Price Check: Chicken Edition

Every week as I steel myself for meal-planning and grocery list-making, I sigh anew at the loss of Thrifty Foods. Without any particular loyalty to any grocery store, I now base my shop around whatever whole foods are currently marked down as loss leaders. I scour the flyers and – if I am feeling energetic – I double check the price book app on my phone to see if the “deal” is really any good. With six mouths to feed in this house, groceries add up, so the time is worth it to me. This week, I thought I’d share my plan in case it helps any of you who are trying to figure out your shopping lists this weekend too.

I prefer to shop close to home, and I don’t like to go to more than one big box grocery store. I price-checked the advertised specials at Safeway, Buy-Low and Save On over the weekend (May 29-31), and this time, it looks like Safeway gets my Big Shop dollars. This week, there are some great prices for tomatoes (99 cents/lb) and strawberries ($2/lb) at Safeway. Armstrong cheddar is also a pretty good price at Buy Low and Save On ($7.99 for 700g), and Save On also has nectarines for 69 cents per pound, cucumbers for 99 cents and a pound of butter for $3.49. But the best local value seems to be chicken, because you can save a lot of money on meat by stocking up and freezing it for future meals.

Whole chickens are selling for $2.29 per pound at Safeway this weekend, and bulk packs of chicken thighs are almost as cheap at $2.99/lb. Compare that price to the cost for chicken breasts: $7.99/lb! And you can’t even make stock if you buy only the breasts! To get the cheap price, you have to buy a bag of three birds, but I have a Chicken System to maximize the number of meals each chicken will provide for our family. You can squeeze a lot of meals out of a few chickens, and even more if your family is on the smaller side. I plan to bring home the limit of six chickens in my grocery cart this weekend, aiming for three meals (each feeding six people) per chicken. I’ll probably freeze four chickens for later, and prepare two birds at once to save time & energy.

Here’s what I plan to do:

Chickens #1 & 2 I will roast side by side in my turkey roasting pan, along with potatoes or beets on the bottom rack of the oven. The skins shall be drizzled in oil, salted & peppered. The cavity will be filled with lemon slices and fresh herbs (probably rosemary, maybe sage or parsley). About half to 3/4 of a whole chicken feeds three adults and three children at our dinners with the addition of salad, potatoes or rice, and some steamed carrots or other kid-approved vegetables.

The remainder of chicken #1 will be dedicated to soup: meat stripped from the bones and saved for soup, bones then simmered on the stove or in a slow cooker overnight with the ends of carrots, celery, onions and parsley stems that I have been saving in my freezer. I find it very satisfying to make stock using bits of vegetables that would otherwise have been thrown away. The stock is cooled, skimmed and stored in various sized jars: several 1-cup mason jars of homey comfort put by for future sick days or to be used in rice, sauces or stir-fries, and at least one large container ready to turn into a later meal of chicken noodle soup with homemade biscuits (a cheap and filling favourite meal around here).

As for that second roasted chicken, I will strip the meat from the bones and use it to make a chicken pot pie and, later, a pasta dish with a little chicken tossed in. The carcass will go in my freezer until I need more soup stock.

Even with all that chicken, I am tempted to also go for the chicken thigh deal. While a whole roasted chicken is a regular favourite around my house, chicken thighs are convenient and easier to make different kinds of meals. If I go for the thighs, I will have to separate the big package into meal-sized portions, to be frozen along with a marinade or packaged together in a crockpot kit with seasoning and vegetables so I can just dump it in the crockpot on a day when I don’t have time to cook. I may also cube some of the meat for kebabs or to add to soups, stews or sauces. It is a lot of work to prep large packages of meat in this way, but it is a big time and money-saver later on. Chicken thighs are also better than breasts for long-cooking dishes like crockpot curry, and although I know how to cut up a chicken into parts, I don’t like doing it.

Did you spot any local grocery deals this week that I missed? What are your strategies for saving money on food without resorting to Kraft Dinner and canned beans?


Health & wellness highlighted at ‘Spring Cleaning’ event this Saturday

This Saturday, April 13, River Market is hosting “Spring Cleaning for the Mind, Body & Soul,” a health & wellness fair featuring New Westminster businesses and organizations. The event is the brainchild of Zhoosh Fitness‘s Robyn Murrell, who recruited several friends from New Westminster’s B2B NOW (Business To Business Network of Women) group to help organize.

Highlights of the event will include:

  • Try acupuncture, reiki, Shiatsu and even pole fitness – all exhibitors were required to include an interactive component to keep things interesting
  • Demonstrations of various activities, including Hula Hoop Fitness, Zumba and Bollywood dancing
  • Children’s activities at The Music Box in River Market while parents roam the displays
  • ‘Get Active’ photobooth
  • Gift bags for the first 100 people attending the event
  • Charitable fundraising: raffle and sale of daffodil pins benefiting the Canadian Cancer Society (BC & Yukon chapter), plus a “Spring Shave”

For more information on the Spring Cleaning event, email and/or goto the event Facebook page. For more on B2B NOW, email