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[December 11, 2012]
Chicken law may change
Dec 11, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Downers Grove's law permitting backyard chickens has been on the books for 25 years. But the law also excludes most residents from keeping them, a limitation that might be out of date with the current appetite for green efforts, one local official said.
"I think that since this ordinance was created in 1987, there has been a movement toward sustainability, growing your own food and controlling your food source," said Commissioner Becky Rheintgen, who proposed revisiting the existing law. "The trend continues to grow and become more popular. I think that there may be a way to modify the ordinance to be more inclusive of our residents while still being concerned and respectful of our neighbors." According to the ordinance, domesticated birds, poultry and water fowl can be kept as house pets on residential lots at least 110 feet wide and deep. No more than four animals age 18 weeks and older and four animals age 18 weeks and younger can be kept on residential property at one time. All fowl must be in some type of enclosure at all times, which must be at least 50 feet from any property line. Pens, coops and other enclosures must be kept clean, and all the food must be in rodent-proof containers.
Officials say about 3,300 lots qualify to keep fowl on their property, fewer than 20 percent of the residential parcels in the village.
The meeting drew several interested residents who told the council they supported the idea of modifying the ordinance.
"It's quite an experience that I've grown to love," said Leann Lolli, who said she has kept chickens on her property for four years. "The idea of the eggs really appeals to me. With sustainability, the green movement that's going on, local farming, everybody's a little bit more concerned about where their food is coming from." Dawn Konters said she started raising chickens on her property five years ago after helping her two children hatch eggs for a science experience. Konters said they wanted to keep some of the hatched chicks but saw in the ordinance that their 55- by 250-foot lot didn't fall within village regulations for having fowl on residential property. Nevertheless, they built a coop for their five hens after consulting with their neighbors.
"Chickens are very docile; they provide eggs, they mulch leaves," Konters said. "It really fits in with our lifestyle and the way we want to live on our planet." Konters said one nearby resident has complained to the village that they think the fowl draws wildlife to the area.
"I think that if we are able to further investigate this, you will see that they don't attract any more wildlife than the rabbits that are already existent in our neighborhoods," Konters told the council. "I feel confident that chickens could work for most residents and be an asset to the community." Still, a few council members said they weren't thrilled with the idea.
"I have serious reservations about this," said Commissioner Marilyn Schnell. "Having lived through raccoons and a few other things up here, what is one man's pleasure and opportunity is another person's nightmare." "The real controversy here is the people who want to raise the chickens and the people who don't want the chickens next door," said Commissioner William Waldack.
No formal vote was taken at the Dec. 4 meeting, but Mayor Martin Tully and Commissioners Rheintgen, Bob Barnett and Geoff Neustadt favored adding the proposal to a future council meeting. It was unclear when that might occur.
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