Downers Grove Commissioner Wants Voters to Weigh in on Chicken Regulations

Commissioner William Waldack told the village council Dec. 18 that he plans to suggest a referendum for the April 2013 consolidated election ballot.

A Downers Grove commissioner hopes to give voters the chance to decide whether the village should allow more homes to have chicken coops.

Commissioner William Waldack told the village council Dec. 18 that he plans to suggest a referendum question next month about possible changes to the village's fowl ordinance, which regulates how many chickens Downers Grove residents may keep as pets.

 "I do plan on making some suggestions about putting this out to referendum at our next meeting," Waldack said. "I would just ask my fellow council members to think about it over the holidays ...  and keep an open mind."

The Downers Grove Council took up the issue of backyard chicken coop during its Dec. 4 meeting at the request of Commissioner Becky Rheintgen, who asked that village staff look into the possibility of increasing the number of chickens permitted, decreasing setback requirements, banning roosters and requiring a license or permit for keeping chickens.

Currently, the village defines fowl as "any domesticated bird, poultry or water fowl, except for homing pigeons and caged birds kept as house pets." A maximum of four fowl aged 18 weeks or older and four fowl younger than 18 weeks are permitted on residential properties.

Per village code, all fowl must be entirely confined in a pen, coop, building or other enclosure at all times. Enclosures must be set back at least 50 feet from any property line, and shall be kept "clean, sanitary and free from all refuse."

Because of the space requirements, fewer than 20 percent of Downers Grove residents are permitted to keep chickens, Rheintgen said.

"Since the ordinance was created in 1987, there's been a movement toward sustainability, growing your own food and controlling your own food source, and the trend continues to grow and become more popular," Rheintgen said. "The ordinance as it's written excludes a great deal of our residents due to their lot size, and I think there may be a way to modify the ordinance to be more inclusive to residents while still being considerate and respectful of their neighbors."

Downers Grove currently has two active enforcement cases against chicken owners who do not meet the space requirements. Rheintgen brought the issue to the council after receiving emails from the residents.

The village council will discuss the current fowl ordinance during a standing committee meeting on Jan. 21. The deadline for adding a referendum to the April 2013 consolidated election ballot is Jan. 22.

Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully said he is unsure whether it would be appropriate to go to referendum about the fowl ordinance, since the village is discussing possible changes rather than creating a new policy.

"What we're potentially talking about is an adjustment (to the current ordinance), and I can't think of any adjustment of that nature that has gone to referendum," Tully said. "I understand we'll be talking on Jan. 21 about what it is that we might propose as a modification to the ordinance, but I don't even know if we could articulate that on a referendum. Right now, I'm not even sure we'd be able to do that by the 21st."

Tully also said he believes it's the council's job to make decisions about certain issues, rather than rely on popular vote.

"Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of referendums because I think that governing by referendum is an abdication of responsibilities of elected officials," Tully said. "It's part of our job to do our homework and make decisions."

Related stories:

  • Downers Grove Plans Standing Committee Meeting to Tackle Chicken Coop Regulations
  • Downers Grove Staff to Review Chicken Coop Regulations Despite Split Council
  • Downers Grove Council to Discuss Regulations on Backyard Chicken Coops

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Cheryl Dvila December 22, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I would love to have my own eggs to go with my organic garden. Monsanto and it's modifying mother nature is out of control. I just want to grow my own. I would like to have a few chickens too. Sustain myself and the neighbors~
Max Gruppy December 22, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I would like to see a referendum on the village's proposal of increasing taxes by raising the cost of parking at the train stations.
S.H. December 22, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I agree with Cheryl. More of us are going to have to think of creative ways to sustain the environment and stay healthy. It feels great to eat the food you grow in your own garden. Why not add a few fresh eggs to your bounty. People become fearful of change but we need to have a plan B because our current plan of environmental over-consumption and greed is not working. Thank you Ms. Rheintgen for being part of the change we need to see.
John McCormack December 22, 2012 at 06:16 PM
A referendum? Seriously?? Referenda-worthy issues should carry a bit more weight and affect many more people than whether or not to allow people to have chicken coops.
Patch61 December 24, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Chickens are great but you really, really do NOT want roosters. Referendums are great. Pols do not like them b/c they can't "cash in" when they let the people decide.
Gary December 27, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Let's spend out time worrying about increasing chickens in D.G rather than reducing the amount of predators like skunks, coyotes, and raccoons. How many calls do you get about nuisance chickens compared to the amount of people who attempt to complain about these predators? These complaints fall on deaf ears so why is someone responding to chicken requests. The city and the county do not want to address the predators even though there are thousands in Dupage county. By the way those predators will be trying to get into those chicken coups. The raccoons will get in through that chicken wire, so we will be providing a food source for the predators that we all want gone.
Kathygo December 27, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I moved to Downers Grove because of the variety of animals. I think it is wonderful when we see an animal. Not everyone wants them to be gone as you stated. More the merrier for me. Each animal has it role in the environment and we should be willing to share our space with them. I think it would be great if someone on the smaller lot size wants to have chickens they should be able to do so. People are allowed to have dogs and they can be more bothersome than chickens. I don't really think you will have too many people taking up chickens though.
MC December 31, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Last i checked, skunks, coyotes and raccoons were all indigenous species and have every right to live here. It's not the gov't job to eradicate native wildlife. And why do you keep using the word "predator" as if it has a negative connotation? Predators are a necessary part of the food chain. (i would argue that all three are more scavengers than predators anyway).
wayne enerson January 04, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Oh, how I long for the bygone days of dirt roads, sheep grazing in the area of downtown D.G., barns full of cows and turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens running about.


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