Sounds awfully familiar to the situation we were in in Ferndale. Here’s hoping they examine how other cities have approached the issue and take another look at changing their ordinance.
The Downers Grove village council overwhelmingly rejected a measure Tuesday that would have let voters decide whether more homes in town should be allowed to keep backyard chicken coops.
Commissioner William Waldack offered two advisory questions, which were rejected by members of the Village Council. The deadline for adding a referendum to the April 9 ballot is Jan. 22.
Waldack argued that any change to the regulations for raising fowl on residentialproperty is a quality of life issue in which voters should have a say. Waldack previously cited smell, health hazards, attraction of predators and cost of enforcement as potential issues to be considered.
“It has the possibility of impacting just about every life in Downers Grove,” Waldack said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “Not that we’re going to have an influx or invasion of chickens, but if your neighbor goes out and gets a coop and starts raising chickens, suddenly that becomes a very local and personal issue.”
Commissioner Becky Rheintgen, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, first introduced the idea of expanding the village’s fowl ordinance in December, citing an increased demand for and focus upon sustainable living and local food sourcing. Rheintgen proposed decreasing setback requirements, increasing the maximum number of fowl allowed, banning roosters and requiring a license or permit to keep chickens.
Currently, the 25-year-old ordinance allows residents on lots at least 110 feet wide and deep to raise no more than 16 domesticated fowl within specific age ranges on their property. Rheintgen asserted that the property requirements are too restrictive, and fewer than 20 percent of residential lots fall into those parameters.
Waldack suggested two questions asking residents whether local laws should allow for an expansion of the number of homes permitted to keep chickens.
But most of the members said a referendum would be ineffective. Mayor Martin T. Tully said the language offered was too vague.
“We, as a council, don’t even have the information before us to intelligently discuss this issue, much less expect the public to have to vote on it,” Tully said. “What would be thevehicle be by which the residents and voters would get information necessary to responsibly and intelligently cast a vote on this topic? The results of that process wouldn’t provide me with any meaningful information in how to exercise my responsibility as an elected official.”
Commissioner Marilyn Schnell said putting the issue to voters, in this case, would be a “disservice to the residents.”
“We’re elected to try to gather all the information possible, both pro and con, listen to our residents and make a decision that would be in the best interest of our entire community,” Schnell said.
The council has a standing committee scheduled for Jan. 22 devoted to discussing the ordinance. The meeting is open to the public. Waldack countered that he doubted residents would turn out in big numbers for a discussion.
“We’ve had many important meetings. Very often very few people show up,” Waldack said. “If this were put on as a referendum, people will be looking at it, they will get educatedand they will be able to make an educated decision. I think it would actually enhance resident knowledge of the situation.”