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Village gets pushback on chickens, but still considering

Mike Yousef still has chick feed in his garage and hopes to persuade Morton Grove officials to pass an ordinance that allows him once again harvest eggs.  |  Rick Kambic~Sun-Times Media
Mike Yousef still has a $40 medical package that includes a years worth of vitamins, worm prevention, and basic Neosporin from when he had chickens. He hopes get chickens again.  |  Rick Kambic~Sun-Times Media
Mike Yousef used to raise chickens, such as "Foghorn" the longhorn, at his Morton Grove house until a village inspector noticed them and made Yousef sell them. He hopes to bring them back.  |  Photo courtest of Mike Yousef

Morton Grove’s proposal to allow chickens in the village got resistance during a recent committee meeting, but officials are still pushing forward with a draft ordinance in case Mayor Dan DiMaria decides to take up the idea.

Village Trustee Maria Toth sits on the Board of Environmental Health, which is working on the draft, and she voiced her opposition after being contacted by unhappy residents who read a recent news article.

“Things like this belong in a rural area, and we live in a suburban area,” Toth said. “I don’t think it belongs in our community. I’m worried about droppings, rodents and the aesthetics. I have an obligation to the residents who called me.”

DiMaria asked the committee to investigate the pros and cons of backyard chickens and then give a suggestion. Regardless of the committee’s opinion, DiMaria can bring the draft ordinance before the Village Board or ignore the topic completely.

The committee has not taken a stance, but it’s working on a draft ordinance that could address all potential concerns just in case the idea goes before the board.

So far, the proposal would allow between two and five chickens per home, require licensed coops to be at least 30 feet from neighboring buildings and have four square feet of space per chicken, prohibit the butchering of chickens and require annual or biannual coop inspections at $50 per visit.

At its Sept. 3 meeting, the group decided that two inspections might be a time strain for village staff and instead agreed upon just one inspection.

Requiring applicants to get a special use permit was previously considered, so neighbors would be warned and applications could be reviewed more thoroughly, but a written report from Village Attorney Terry Liston disagreed with that idea. Liston did say, however, that an ordinance could require neighbors to be informed.

Georgianne Brunner, the committee’s chairwoman, also said that she did not want a potential ordinance to regulate chickens more than any other legally allowed animal.

After making that statement, Brunner said she will ask Liston how to fairly regulate chicken noise.

Some members of the committee worried about chicken feces and stray food attracting rats, so Brunner plans to ask Liston if and how an ordinance could regulate waste removal and also force licensed chicken owners to pay for rodent extermination.

To make sure all coops are sturdy and sanitary, the committee might create a list of five to 10 preapproved structures that residents must pick from.

Toth’s objection came after resident Bill Chioros told the committee that he thinks backyard chickens would feed the coyote population and make neighborhoods less safe for children.

“You’re containing a food source in one spot and leaving it for predators to take whenever they want,” Chioros said. “Not to mention, I don’t want to sit in my backyard and struggle to enjoy myself because I have to look at and hear noise from a chicken coop. That’s not why I moved to Morton Grove.”

Brunner told Chioros that cats and small dogs are already targets for coyotes, and Morton Grove probably wouldn’t have as many chickens if the ordinance were passed. She did thank Chioros for attending the meeting and suggested he also lobby DiMaria.

“If I had a chicken coop, I think my dog would probably be the biggest threat because he has the time to wait around and learn how the gate opens, plus he knows when I’m normally not home,” said resident Brad Moldofsky.

While disagreeing with the worries about predators, Moldofsky said he wouldn’t build a coop if neighbors objected.

“I’m not sure I see backyard chickens in my future, but I’m interested in learning and would love to get free eggs from a neighbor who had chickens,” said Moldofsky, who volunteers at the farmer’s market. “However, everyone in my neighborhood wants to get along and we talk often. I don’t know if other people exercise that courtesy.”

Moldofsky asked if the village could require applicants to show proof of passing a chicken-related educational program, but Brunner said that would be an unfair requirement that dog and cat owners do not have to meet.

Mike Yousef, the resident who originally asked the mayor to allow chickens, reminded the committee that their drafted ordinance was based off Evanston’s ordinance.

“Your (proposal) is getting more detailed than Evanston’s, and they haven’t had any problems in two years,” Yousef said. “I don’t think every house in Morton Grove will have chickens. A select few want this freedom. I don’t think that will cause a rodent or coyote problem.”

Bonnie Burnett, the village’s health inspector, said she’s received many calls over the years from residents curious about backyard chickens and believes more people would apply than Yousef thinks but agrees the total would still be small in comparison to dog and cat owners.

Aside from Toth, other members of the committee have not yet taken a stance on the proposal.

The group will reconvene on Oct. 1 to review Liston’s feedback on the latest batch of legal questions, revise the proposal accordingly, and potentially make a recommendation to DiMaria on whether he should or should not pursue the topic.

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