Jennifer and Jeff Spitz showed up at the Village Board meeting Tuesday as self-admitted “lawbreakers.”
And the couple left several hours later with the same status.
Despite testifying that their two chickens are “wonderful pets” and promote better understanding of the food chain, the Spitzes were unable to persuade the board to expand Northbrook residents’ ability to raise and keep chickens.
Coming after a series of debates, the board voted 5-2 against amending its current ordinance that limits the possession of chickens to residents possessing a two-acre plot, in which the chicken coop would be at least 150 feet from the property line.
Citing village aesthetics and safety concerns that coyotes and other predators would be attracted by the chickens, board members rejected the recommendation of its Communications and Legislation Committee that endorsed the ordinance’s revision. The committee suggested the revision be based on an Evanston law regulating chicken possession.
The only pro-amendment votes came from trustees Todd Heller and Bob Israel. Trustee Kathryn Cielsa, who previously appeared to support the liberalization of the law, voted with the majority.
Safety concerns cited
Ciesla spoke for herself and Village President Sandra Frum when she cited the attraction of coyotes to chicken coops.
“I’m absolutely for property rights,” Ciesla said. “Coops attract predatory animals. Safety concerns weigh heavily for me. Coops are a disadvantage and affect the ambience of the community.”
Frum added: “My biggest concern is safety. We have a lot of forest preserves. We have a lot of predators, particularly coyotes. Chicken coops and coyotes are a disconcerting mix.”
But Jennifer Spitz, who along with her husband and longtime chicken advocate Christine Buti were the only residents who spoke up in favor of the amendment, said coyotes would not differentiate between a a coop on a two-acre lot and one in a standard back yard.
“It’s fear of the unknown,” she said. “It’s a very conservative community. We live in a cul-de-sac. Our neighbors love our chickens. We have wild ducks that make more noise than the chickens.”
Spitz said no village official has approached them yet about giving up their chickens.
Trustees James Karagianis and A.C. Buehler III were brief in their verbal opposition to ordinance changes. But Trustee Michael Scolaro said if the amendment were approved, what would stop other animal advocates from seeking official endorsement.
“I’m concerned if we allowed chickens, there’d be a proposal for goats,” he said.
Support from some
The Communications and Legislation Committee liked the parts of the Evanston law that banned roosters, limited the number of hens to six, prohibited slaughtering of chickens and mandated informing neighbors of the fowl.
In backing the proposed changes, Heller said chickens have not reduced property values in communities in which they’re allowed. Israel said “it would be a great thing to bring the community back to nature.”