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Libertyville rejects backyard chickens

Supporters say village could address any potential issues through trial run. “Let’s put it test see whhappens” Sean Gay Libertyville

Supporters say the village could address any potential issues through a trial run. “Let’s put it to the test and see what happens,” Sean Gay, of Libertyville, said. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: January 28, 2014 3:16AM

Libertyville officials have scrapped a proposal that would have allowed a total of up to just 15 backyard chickens in the village.

Trustee Jim Moran helped develop a list of rules governing a trial run that would have limited chicken-raising to only five households for two years. But the strict standards failed to sway fellow trustees, who overwhelmingly rejected the measure.

Homeowners already can set up chicken coops on properties spanning at least five acres. But officials feared introducing them into smaller backyards would attract hungry predators and strong odor.

Trustee Todd Gaines also warned of lower home values.

“We have to realize that people don’t want to live in an agricultural environment,” Gaines said.

Others hinted they could stand behind a pilot program once similar experiments in nearby communities run their course.

“I’m not just completely and totally dead set against the idea,” Trustee Rich Moras said.

In nearby Deerfield, the village has issued all five permits authorized under its one-year program, set to expire in early 2014. And several more residents have shown interest in building coops, Village Manager Kent Street said.

Participants must register with the state Department of Agriculture. Roosters are banned.

Deerfield will issue a report on its regulations in January or February.

“Up to this point, we have received no complaints,” said Street, crediting “good stewardship” of enclosures.

Under Moran’s vision, Libertyville would have permitted chickens on lots as small as a quarter acre.

With the proper safeguards, Moras, whose brother raises the birds near Wadsworth, said he could embrace them on bigger lots for a designated period of time.

“Fundamentally, I’m against government putting restrictions on people and what they can do on their own property,” Moras said. “It’s been difficult weighing the pros and cons.”

Moran, the lone “yes” vote, visited coops near Mundelein and Lake Forest. Fencing that extends several feet into the ground have guarded against coyotes and other animals, he said.

“Neither of them had predator issues,” Moran said.

While advocates for the food trend have found support in Lake County officials, other suburbs have shunned backyard chickens. The county board recently loosened restrictions for cultivating hens and bees in unincorporated areas.

Mundelein, though, shot down an ordinance last summer that would have brought both creatures to yards.

For Gina Andaas, tending to a small flock gives her control over egg production.

“It’s more than just having fresh eggs,” Andaas said. “It’s about being able to have a pesticide-free yard. It’s about knowing what’s in your food.”

The Palatine woman told Libertyville trustees in late November she and her husband want to move to Lake County. But only to a town that gives residents the reins over what she sees as an environmentally-friendly practice.

“I would think that you would want to attract the type of people that are concerned about sustainable living for the future of our children,” said Andaas, a registered nurse.

Libertyville woman Kim Winkin said other alternatives are available. She pointed to Radical Root, billed as the first organic farm in the village. So far, Radical Root has sold fresh eggs from grain-fed chickens and produce in Chicago farmers markets, but there are plans for a roadside stand at the old Casey Farm off of Milwaukee Avenue.

“I don’t think chickens are something we need in our backyards when we have access to something like that so close,” Winkin said.

Recognizing the concerns, Sean Gay, a Libertyville father of four, argued a trial would give the village the chance to iron out potential problems.

“Let’s put it to the test and see what happens,” he said.

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