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DeKalb County zoning officials push unincorporated backyard chickens discussions to November

SYCAMORE – Talks about an ordinance that would allow chickens on unincorporated DeKalb County land that’s less than two acres are set to continue next month.

Derek Hiland, community development director for DeKalb County, said during the Wednesday county Planning and Zoning Committee meeting that the proposal – which was submitted by James and Sarah Mueller of unincorporated Genoa – initially arose for the county last summer. He said someone complained to the county about chickens and roosters being kept on unincorporated property less than two acres in size, which was an apparent violation of the county’s current ordinance.

“So this is the way to solve that,” Hiland said.

Committee members voted, 6-0, to push the vote to a special planning and zoning committee meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 12 after staff further adjusts the proposed ordinance. DeKalb County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski, also a member of the committee, was absent from the Wednesday meeting.

According to committee meeting documents, no members of the public spoke against the proposal of having chickens on residential property less than two acres large during a Sept. 24 public hearing. DeKalb County Hearing Officer Dale Clark recommended approval for the zoning text amendment, which would require hen coops and yards to be 50 feet away from any residence on a neighboring lot, to not be located in a lot’s front yard and for applicants to pay an annual $20 application and license fee.

“It would be on the … densest subdivisions in the county, in unincorporated areas, and it would be on the least dense areas of the county of two acres or less,” Hiland said.

County Board and committee member Roy Plote said he thought it was unnecessary to leave in requirements that just outline basic care and keeping of chickens. He said the assumption is that applicants already have an idea of what needs to be done or, at least, will learn very quickly what needs to be done if they don’t want dead chickens as a result.

“And I also don’t like the fact of wasting staff time to worry to go out enforcing it all,” Plote said.

County Board member Steve Faivre, who is also chairman for the county’s Planning and Zoning Committee, said he agreed with Plote’s point about using staff time for enforcement purposes. However, he pointed out that part of the amendment’s purpose also is to protect the applicant and so the county wouldn’t have to address any further concerns about applicants not knowing what they’re doing in taking care of the birds.

“These are not professional chicken people,” Faivre said. “You’ve got somebody that could just casually say, ‘You know, I like the idea of having eggs.’ They don’t do the kind of work that this applicant has done in learning about chickens.”

Committee members agreed with taking the chicken care requirements out of the amendment but including those points in the eventual application, should the proposal be approved.

County Board and committee member Suzanne Willis said she thought it also would make sense to retain in the amendment the requirement that the hen yards and coops don’t become nuisances to surrounding property owners.

“So if the neighbors perceive that it is becoming a nuisance, then there’s a place for them to make a complaint about that,” Willis said.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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