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Arlington Heights Says No to Backyard Hens

Arlington Heights village board unanimously votes against resident variance request to have a chicken coop, and hens in the backyard.

Arlington Heights rejected two requests from residents to have backyard chickens and will put a policy in place to put the issue at rest.

Resident Matt Scallon approached the board in February 2012 asking for a variance to an ordinance that prohibits anything other than customary pets. The board rejected the request after lengthy discussion on the pros and cons of backyard chickens.

Scallon asked trustees to reconsider the decision Monday night. He made some changes to his original request by relocating the coop further away from neighbors where it cannot be seen and suggesting a three-year trial period.

A neighbor, Mary Green, also filed a request for a variance citing her desire to have three hens as pets for her son, who is allergic to fur and cannot have a dog or cat or other pets.

The board unanimously voted against both requests after hearing from Scallon, Green, their neighbors and supporters of backyard chickens. Many of Scallon’s neighbors signed a petition against the village having backyard chickens.

Mary Ellen Burkman spoke on behalf of her father who lives near Scallon. The elderly man is opposed to Scallon’s plan for backyard chickens because he is worried about property values going down, Burkman said.

“He is older, he is looking to sell his property and would feel this is a deterrent to be able to sell it,” she said.

There is no evidence whatsoever that backyard chickens affect property values, said Gina Andaas, a Palatine resident who supports the idea of backyard chickens. Many affluence towns, like Evanston and Naperville, have allowed residents to own chickens and have not reported lower values as a result, she said.

A 2010 Forbes study found the top 10 cities that report homes appreciating in value allow backyard chickens, said Jennifer Murtoff, an urban chicken consultant who spoke Monday.

“I ask you to consider this variance and look at the facts,” Murtoff said.

Last year, two trustees voted for Scallon’s request. Monday’s vote was a unanimous “no.” Village President Arlene Mulder said she is very familiar with chickens growing up on a farm.

“I keep thinking of the ups and downsides. Like a lot of things, it becomes a trend then the trend grows old and the upkeep becomes less than it was initially,” she said.

Mulder added that she began to think what the community would be like if the village did allow backyard chickens and 50 percent of homeowners decided to have backyard coops. “Is that the same community environment we all moved into?” she said.

David Lawson is against having backyard chickens. “I feel we are going to be revisiting this over and over,” he said. “I am asking the village make a decision that is final so we don’t have to go over this again.”

Trustee Thomas Glasgow said the board made a policy decision last year when it heard Scallon’s first request. However, Village Manager Bill Dixon said village code puts forth a process to request a variance but does not include limits on how many times a request can be made within a year.

A repetitive discussion of the same subject is not productive use of the public’s time, the staff’s time and the board’s time, Glasgow said.

Trustees asked staff to put something together _ an amendment to its code or a policy _ that would spell out the village’s stance on backyard chickens.

Teresa January 23, 2013 at 05:54 PM
I really think people should educate themselves on what having 3 hens in a yard entails. It is not smelly, noisy or attracts any more preditors than we already have. You can call it a trend but I call it a lifestyle for heathier choices. We go to Farmers Markets to buy locally and free range for a healthier food source. Last night was a bully session.
Shawn Jackson January 23, 2013 at 06:06 PM
I agree with Teresa, people should really research the facts. If it would have been an animal shelter It would have probably been approved out of sympathy. When in fact that would bring much more noise and waste. I know there are kennels and shelters in residential neighborhoods.
S. Diane January 23, 2013 at 06:31 PM
I attended last evenings meeting as an observer and it was indeed a bully session. I have attended various village meetings since the late 1980's and I have never seen the level of bullying and ignorance that was displayed by certain residents last evening. Urban chicken farming is not a trend, it is a growing movement based on factors including health, economics and yard-to-table urban agriculture. It is practiced by residents all over the country from small yards in Chicago and Denver to residential backyards in Evanston and Naperville. As an Arlington Heights resident it was unpleasant to witness the angry and uneducated views of the neighbors who opposed the variance but also enlightening as I choose who to vote for in upcoming local elections.
Renee Renz January 23, 2013 at 06:55 PM
I was at the meeting last night and what befuddled me the most was that the trustees voted against the requests stating that they were upholding the policy change they "implied" at Matt Scallon's first request. Well the policy was never changed and the reasons for the policy change - predators, noise, disease - were not validated at all. Their decisions are based on emotions only, not the facts. They voted no upholding a policy which does not exist. When this policy on allowed pets will be created and on what basis and facts concerns me. What other current pets will be listed as not allowed? Who is to say if a rat, mouse, hamster, pot-belly pig, chinchilla, rabbit, reptile or fish is not a pet? I get that our village is not educated and open minded to allow a few backyard hens, but where is the line drawn?
Kevin Killion April 16, 2013 at 02:12 PM
No surprises here. This town gives tax incentives to pack cookie-cutter franchises end-to-end on every major street, but you're not allowed to take a walk in the park with your dog. A mentality like that isn't going to be receptive to common sense.

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