By Doris Elmore
A discussion to allow backyard chickens within Atwood village limits was held at the regular meeting of the village board on Monday, June 8. Included on the new business agenda was discussion and action to move forward with preparation of a backyard hen ordinance. This subject was introduced to the board by Jamie Simpson in general discussion at a recent zoom meeting.
During the discussion this reporter addressed the board asking them not to allow chickens in town. I pointed out that not everyone raises fowl or other animals in the same way. I understand that Jamie would do a good job, but that is just one person, not a whole town. I went online and researched this subject and talked to some people that have raised chickens. I learned there are towns that allow them and get along fine, but that chickens will attract other animals that we do not want in town, coyotes, fox, etc. Also, in hot weather the chickens smell. I don’t think raising chickens belongs in town where there is close living. I think it is degrading to a town to have chickens. I talked to Arthur, Tuscola and Hammond and they do not allow chickens. Hammond has voted it down at least two or three times.
Simpson was in attendance and told the board she had contacted the state veterinarian’s office and they pointed out that Elgin, IL (a town of over 110,000) had a pilot program allowing chickens in town. It went very well and they extended the program to include more permits for people to have chickens in town. Simpson said her chickens would not smell. She feels chickens can be a good hobby and it provides protein for people who raise them. She said the chicken waste provides great fertilizer for yards and gardens, they eat small bugs. She said there would be no free-range chickens and no roosters because they are noisy.
Village President Davey Herring stated that he had talked to enough of the trustees to feel the subject of chickens would not go forward, but he felt he needed to have a discussion to make it fair. He polled the board asking their opinion on this subject. Allen Kilber stated that it was not his choice to allow chickens in town. He continued that it is the job of the trustees to look out for the people in town and there is probably more that don’t want chickens than do. He said if the village doesn’t have the problem, don’t create one.
Scott Harris stated he was the new kid on the block (new to the board) and this is new to him but he is in opposition of having chickens in town.
Haley Ely asked Jamie about presenting a petition of those who want chickens in town. During that time Kenny Crossman, Village Attorney, stated that the board could put it on the ballot for the people to vote on if they wanted to do that.
Chris Stoltz stated that she was definitely against having chickens in town because it is impossible to keep them from smelling. She had talked to some people about it and she doesn’t think it would be good for the town to allow chickens. She said there is enough other issues, such as junk around people’s homes, that keeps the Atwood Police Chief Rob Bross busy trying to keep on top of this. If chickens would be allowed it would have to be carefully monitored by the police and they are already kept busy.
Ron Wallace said he would like to see something in the paper about chickens and see what the community thinks about having chickens in town. He said there would have to be stipulations on what has to be done if they followed through with it.
Heather O’Connor stated she has eight animals in her house and it is clean and so is her yard. She was playing devils advocate and said it was according to how an ordinance is written. The chickens would have to be a significant distance from other homes. She thinks there would need to be stiffer application fees to have chickens and hefty fines if the ordinance was violated.
Atwood Police Chief Rob Bross said that if the board decided to allow chickens that he suggested they make the time to comply with an ordinance violation 24 hours for chickens, not 7 or 10 days.
This reporter then stated that if chickens were allowed in town then what next? They need to think long and hard before they proceed with this ordinance.
It was suggested the village could have a pilot program of only five chickens. The board could discontinue it after the program expired if it wasn’t successful.
The board decided to table a decision that evening in order to find out how the public feels about chickens in town. They also want to find a backyard chicken ordinance to see what is involved.
The public is encouraged to contact a board member, write a letter to the board, or attend the next village board meeting to let them know how they feel about the subject of chickens in town.
Other business before the board was as follows:
Approval of expenditures totaling $51,652.09.
The board voted to reduce the cost of the village liquor license for the first half of the year. The license is $1,000 per year so those with a liquor license will only pay $500 this year due to the businesses being closed down because of the pandemic.
A motion was passed to advertise for the position of full-time police officer. At the present time Rob is the only full-time officer with two part-time officers and one is deployed.
A discussion was held on action taken regarding abandoned vehicles and camper ordinances. Chief Bross has been busy trying to work with several areas in town to keep them in compliance with village ordinances.
The board voted to add holiday pay to the benefit package of Village Treasurer Jamie Simpson, effective back to March 9, 2020.
Attorney Crossman told the board that he had talked to Kevin Knight, owner of the south trailer court, and gave him the name of two different companies he could contact to have the trailers removed. The board wants the trailers gone and the lot cleaned up. Knight said he would get it taken care of right away. Legal action will be taken if Knight doesn’t comply.
A motion was made to accept the FY21 budget.
President Davey stated that it was good to have a full board again and ask that people please have patience with them while they get everyone up to date.
The next meeting of the board will be Monday, July 13, at 7 p.m.