Opinions sought on Oswego chicken farming : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Opinions sought on Oswego chicken farming|
|ECO Commission inviting public comments during Monday hearing|
|by John Etheredge|
The Environmentally Conscious Oswego (ECO) Commission wants to know what Oswego residents think about an ordinance that would allow village residents to raise chickens at their homes.
The commission has scheduled a public hearing on the issue as part of their next meeting on Monday, March 5 at village hall. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.
ECO Chairman George Stenitzer told the village board Feb. 21 the commission welcomes differing opinions.
"We realize that not everybody is going to agree that this is the greatest thing. Some people will be for it, some people will be against it," he said.
Stenitzer said the commission plans to use the public comments along with the results of a study of 25 communities where chicken farming is permitted to draft an ordinance that the board could consider for adoption.
The ordinance, he said, would allow Oswego to continue "to set the tone in terms of the environment and be the progressive kind of community I think we can be."
Earlier during the Feb. 21 meeting, John Palatine, a resident of the village's Gates Creek Subdivision, urged the board to consider adopting an ordinance that would allow residents to raise chickens.
Palatine told the board that chicken farming is already permitted in numerous Chicago area communities, including Naperville, Batavia, Downers Grove, St. Charles and Chicago.
Palatine told board members the board could permit chickens if they were to change an existing ordinance that now requires chicken coops to be a minimum of 100 feet from their neighbor's property line. (The setback requirement currently serves to effectively outlaw chicken coops.)
He suggested, however, the minimum distance could be reduced to 25 or 30, making it comparable to municipalities that currently permit chicken farming.
Palatine said he had personally contacted several communities that allow chicken farming and found that there have been few complaints reported.
He said Naperville officials told him they have had no complaints, while Evanston officials reported two complaints in two years. Both of the complaints involved homeowners who had failed to obtain a required permit from the city, according to Palatine.
Palatine added that Naperville "has always" permitted chicken farming, but reduced the maximum number of chickens per home from 20 to eight.
In addition, he said, the city has established requirements for chicken coops to make sure they are strong enough to keep varmints out and prohibited roosters.
"That's because roosters make all the noise," Palatine said. "The hens are the little cluckers. They don't make much noise."
Palatine added he believes there are several benefits to allowing village residents to raise their own chickens.
The homegrown chickens, Palatine said, produce better quality eggs that are rich in protein and higher in vitamins, while the fertilizer from the chicken waste is high in nitrogen and makes for a good garden fertilizer.
Chicken farming is also very educational, Palatine said.
"It teaches kids where their food comes from and it teaches them responsibility," he said, adding, "I really believe a small step like this could really help in the big picture of how we can be more self-sustaining and be better stewards of our environment."
Stenitzer also stressed the educational benefit of allowing residents to keep their own chickens.
"There are a whole lot of kids who actually think their food comes from the store. If you look at the surveys, double digit percentages of kids don't know that food comes from gardens and animals," Stenitzer said, "I think there is an opportunity here for Oswego to join communities like Naperville, like Batavia and like Chicago that permit local agriculture," he said, adding, "I think it's time for us to do it."
He continued, "You know, springtime is in the air and now is the time to act on this."
The board also heard a request from another village resident, Diane Osgood, who urged them to consider an ordinance that would allow residents to keep beehives on their property.
"I would love you to consider very seriously an ordinance that would allow us to bring in (bee) hives under conditions which we can all live with," Osgood said. "I believe strongly that we can co-exist with beehives. It's been proven in large cities and small villages across the United States."
Osgood noted that bees play a very crucial role in our environment and there has been a "very significant bee die-off" in recent years across the world.
"Bees fertilize most of the food we eat and they are critical, critical critters to our food chain and without them we are not going to get a lot of fruit and vegetables. We are absolutely dependent on those little critters to bring food to our tables," she said.
Osgood said there is a movement across the country now to encourage people to keep bees.
She noted that in 2007 the City of New York agreed to allow the city's residents to keep bees.
"I think if beehives and New Yorkers can co-exist there is a pretty good chance that beehives and Oswegoans can co-exist," she said.
Osgood added, "It would be wonderful to get the schools involved and let kids know where their food comes from. It would be great for the economy and just a real nice community activity and get more people down to the Farmers' Market."
Another resident, Ellen Von Ohlen, encouraged the board to adopt ordinances allowing both beehives and chicken farming.
Von Ohlen said she sees no problem with allowing village residents to raise their own chickens.
Von Ohlen added she would probably be one of the first people in line to trade some vegetables from her garden to a neighbor in exchange for some fresh eggs and fertilizer from their chickens.