McHenry says no to backyard chickens

McHENRY – Backyard chickens will not be welcomed in town.

In a 4-3 vote Monday, where Mayor Sue Low had to break a tie, the City Council opted against allowing residents to have backyard chickens.

Aldermen Vic Santi, Robert Peterson and Geri Condon voted in favor allowing chickens. Aldermen Andy Glab, Richard Wimmer and Jeff Schaefer said no.

During the summer, Crystal Lake wrestled with the issue of allowing people to have backyard chickens and ultimately voted against allowing chickens.

Under the proposed McHenry ordinance, people who wanted hens in their backyard would need to keep them in a coop that is at least 10 feet from the property lines, roosters would be prohibited, and slaughtering of chickens would be prohibited.

There would be a maximum of 10 licenses allowed in the city, but a waiting list would be created if more people were interested. A permit to have chickens would cost $50.

The city also planned to revisit the issue in approximately a year.

“I personally believe let’s try it,” Condon said.

She said if chickens became a nuisance the city could always repeal the ordinance.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Condon said.

The city would require people to notify their homeowners’ association, if one exists, before the city would approve a permit. Adjoining property owners would need to be notified before a permit is issued as well.

City staff members began looking into allowing backyard chickens at the request of resident Adrian Plante, who has four hens he wanted to keep in his backyard.

In September the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, in a 4-3 vote, decided not to support the plan. Commissioners had concerns that chickens were not conducive to urban settings and might be nuisances to nearby properties, that there needed to be a further setback for the chicken coops, and that chickens might attract predators.

“There will be a group of people who will be happy, and those who will be unhappy,” Condon said.

Schaefer and Wimmer had concern about whether some of the city lots were big enough for chickens.

“It should be on the larger lots,” Wimmer said. “Some of our smaller downtown lots are going to struggle with this.”

Before casting the the tie-breaking vote against backyard hens, Low said she would have supported the proposal if it were for larger lots.

“In my contacts with residents, it was overwhelming not in favor of having chickens,” Low said. “The part I can’t get past is the small city lots. It’s too small for a chicken coop.”

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