Will chickens fly in Glencoe?
Updated: September 27, 2012 2:07PM
GLENCOE — Glencoe Village Board members on Sept. 20 told a resident seeking legalized hen-keeping to prove he’s got backing before they even talk about it.
“This is the kind of thing where you spend two months, three months working on it, and then you get 10 people who come in and say, ‘You want to do what?’” Village President Scott Feldman said.
He told home-chicken fan Kevin Q. Harvey to gather signatures to back his play.
“I’m a little disappointed the Board put the onus of proof on me,” Harvey said last week.
Harvey, who has designed websites and virtual reality environments for fun and profit, may be just the right guy to carry the load. He already has his Glencoe Chickens site on the Internet.
Friday, he arranged an event to post on it: a 7 p.m. Oct. 4 informational meeting at the Glencoe Public Library, led by Jennifer Murtoff, who bills herself as an urban chicken consultant.
Monday, Harvey built a digital petition onto the site at glencoechickens.blogspot.com.
Neither Feldman nor any of the trustees last week told Harvey what the minimum number of signatures would be.
“Just because 25 people sign, doesn’t mean you get it,” Feldman said. “If you get 3,000, you get it.”
Harvey knows what it’s like to be short of signatures. He ran for 10th District U.S. representative in 1999, and was knocked off the ballot when his petitions were challenged. That left Lauren Beth Gash unopposed in the Democratic primary, but she went on to lose to Mark Kirk.
Despite the Board’s doubt about support for backyard chickens, the members were complimentary about Harvey’s slick audio-visual presentation.
He told them, in Powerpoint words and pictures, that fresh eggs were better for egg-eaters, and chicken dung makes better compost, too. He also remarked that while roosters are noisy, most towns ban them, leaving comparatively quiet hens.
The cities also ban slaughtering, which leaves out a lot of other unpleasantness.
He said that keeping chickens fits into a sustainable lifestyle, and he appears to be on the way at his own Mayfair Lane home. He has seven-foot sunflowers in front, and four rows of corn in back.
He didn’t have to debate Trustee Bruce Cowans about the impact of a few chickens in backyards. Believe it or not, buttoned-down management consultant Cowans said, “My family calls me ‘Farmboy.’ At one time in my life, I took care of 58,000 chickens.”
Cowans said hens were not noisy, and not smelly, either — as long as they weren’t too tightly cooped-up. He agreed with Harvey that chickens are less annoying than barking dogs. Cowans also said that legislating the required setbacks for coops might be a nightmare.
He said he may be willing to look at Glencoe chicken-keeping, especially if it were in a shared community chicken ranch, which could be kept far from homes.
This concept seemed to thrill Trustee Joe Keefe, a professional humorist who pledged to avoid chicken jokes.
“A co-op coop,” he cackled.
Arguments like Harvey’s, after months of debate, convinced Evanston’s City Council in 2010. It didn’t work in Northbrook, where you can’t keep chickens unless your property is more than two acres, and there are precious few of those lots left.
“We have too many forest preserves around here,” Northbrook Village President Sandy Frum said Friday. “Too many coyotes. I don’t want an attractive nuisance.”
Harvey maintains that there are few if any predatory attacks on backyard chickens, but the experience of the Schwartz family in Northbrook tells a different story. Members said that two of their illegally-kept chickens were killed by dogs in 2011.
As of last spring, the family still had one chicken in the yard, even though it was banned.
In Northbrook, police don’t cite residents for such things, even if they know about them, unless neighbors complain.