DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council will again hear considerations Monday on whether to allow residents to raise chickens in their backyard, although City Manager Bill Nicklas doesn't recommend approval, and says the city has bigger fish to fry.
At least two aldermen, however, support the endeavor.
"As the community wrestles with a world-wide pandemic and more pressing issues of social justice and economic dislocation, this lifestyle topic is a distraction from more appropriate organization priorities," Nicklas said in city documents bringing the topic to the council.
In a social media post Saturday, 1st Ward Alderman Carolyn Morris, who is running for mayor of DeKalb in 2021, said she doesn't think Nicklas should have an opinion on the issue before the council's deliberations.
"It is not the manager's role to be giving interviews to local media taking an opposing position to a policy that is put put forth for consideration both by a commission of volunteers, the Environmental Commission, and by two council members – myself and [5th Ward Alderman] Scott McAdams," Morris said.
The meeting, set for 6 p.m. in the Yusunas Room in the basement of the DeKalb Municipal Library, 309 Oak St., will be held in person but also offer livestreaming via Channel 14 or YouTube, or via Zoom at http://shawurl.com/3dw7.
The city has for years deliberated over whether to allow an ordinance for chickens to be housed in residential neighborhoods.
In 2011, DeKalb's Environmental Commission, Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council began discussions, but the vote was rejected by the council in April 2012, documents show.
In 2018, the topic was again brought up by the environmental commission, which included an expanded proposal to allow churches and other nonresidential places, and tenants in residential neighborhoods, the opportunity to raise chickens.
In spring 2019, one of the commission's members, William Olekno, distinguished teaching professor emeritus in public health at Northern Illinois University, gave a presentation in opposition to the proposal, and the commission tabled the discussion.
Arguing against lifting the ban on raising backyard chickens, Olekno in his findings cited the potential for chickens to carry disease such as salmonella, attracting unwanted creatures such as rodents or predators, and inviting the potential for animal abandonment or cruelty if the chickens are not kept properly as reasons not to allow the animals in the city.
Olekno's paper also said that allowing chickens could set a precedent that would encourage residents to want to keep other animals in an urban setting, such as ducks, geese, goats, pigs or llamas.
In August of this year, however, commission members recommended the matter be once again forwarded to the council, which they'll take up Monday.
In his appeal against the proposal, Nicklas said the city doesn't have enough code enforcement staff or police officers who can devote time to ensuring chickens are being properly kept, documents show.
Morris said she and McAdams understand the proposal may not pass, but said cited a petition showing that 543 DeKalb residents want the opportunity to keep chickens in their backyard.
"When Scott and I decided to put this forward, we didn't think it would pass because we know most of the council members are opposed to it," Morris said. "However, I believe that it is because the manager has discouraged it and they respect him. I also respect the city manager, but I am elected to represent the people and carry out their wishes, not the manager's. The manager has no place getting involved in policy matters like this. Council needs to think for themselves and listen to the electorate."
This article has been updated to include the proper start time to tonight's DeKalb City Council meeting, at 6 p.m. The Daily Chronicle regrets the error.