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Local

DeKalb County Board sends unincorporated backyard chickens amendment back to committee

DeKalb County Board member Steve Faivre – who also chairs the county's planning and zoning committee – talks during the virtual County Board meeting on Wednesday as fellow County Board members Larry West, Mark Pietrowski Jr., Tim Hughes and Chris Porterfield (left to right) listen.
DeKalb County Board member Steve Faivre – who also chairs the county's planning and zoning committee – talks during the virtual County Board meeting on Wednesday as fellow County Board members Larry West, Mark Pietrowski Jr., Tim Hughes and Chris Porterfield (left to right) listen.

SYCAMORE – An ordinance amendment that would allow chickens on unincorporated DeKalb County residential land that’s less than two acres is going back to the county's planning and zoning committee.

The DeKalb County Board voted, 24-0, during their Wednesday virtual meeting to send the amendment back to the county's planning and zoning committee following several voiced concerns from board members, including the amendment not requiring neighbors to be notified and everyone having a different definition of what a nuisance is.

"So that’s where I think we’re going to be fielding a lot of phone calls and a lot of complaints," County Board member Larry West said.

The update comes after the committee previously discussed the ordinance text amendment last month. It would allow for residents to submit an application that would allow them to keep chickens on smaller unincorporated residential lots, provided they meet county setback requirements and they are not deemed a nuisance.

County Board member Tim Hughes said he doesn't believe that putting agricultural animals in residential areas is a good mix. If the maximum number of hens someone could have on an unincorporated lot is ten hens as currently written, he said, the proposed 50 foot setback from residences could mean that could apply to a lot as small as a quarter or half of an acre – and those hens could yield 70 eggs in seven days on that lot.

"This is not something for a homeowner," Hughes said. "It's a business."

County officials had confirmed the proposal – which was submitted by James and Sarah Mueller of unincorporated Genoa – initially arose for the county last summer. Someone complained to the county about chickens and roosters being kept on unincorporated property less than two acres in size, which was an apparent violation of the county’s current ordinance, according to county staff.

Derek Hiland, community development director for DeKalb County, said on Wednesday he does not believe the applicants – who were on the call but did not provide comment during the meeting – live in agricultural zoning within the county.

County Board member Tracy Jones said he thought there were some valid points raised during the meeting. He said he would not be opposed to maybe allowing backyard chickens on two acres or less if the land is within an agricultural zoning district but perhaps not allow it in rural subdivisions.

"I don't know about anybody else, but I'm not passing an ordinance for two people; I'm passing an ordinance for the county," Jones said.

According to county documents, no members of the public spoke against the proposal of having chickens on residential property less than two acres large during a Sept. 24 public hearing. DeKalb County Hearing Officer Dale Clark recommended approval for the zoning text amendment, which would require hen coops and yards to be 50 feet away from any residence on a neighboring lot, to not be located in a lot’s front yard and for applicants to pay an annual $20 application and license fee.

The county's planning and zoning committee also unanimously approved the amendment during their Nov. 12 meeting as written to go before the County Board for a vote.

Following the additional board member comments, County Board member Steve Faivre – who also chairs the county's planning and zoning committee – said he then would recommend to have the amendment be sent back to committee. He said he would also recommend to have the amendment reworked where backyard chickens would be allowed on an unincorporated lot if a surrounding incorporated area allows them, for example.

“Which is what we do similarly for things like leaf burning and things like that,” Faivre said.

County staff confirmed on Wednesday the matter going back before the planning and zoning committee would have to be after the County Board's Dec. 7 organizational meeting, since there will be new board members coming on and new committee assignments following that meeting.

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