Geneseo says 'no' to backyard chickens

Lisa Depies

The hope for backyard chickens in Geneseo has flown the coop. A vote to permit chickens failed 2-6 on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

A crowd of Geneseo residents flocked to the meeting to voice both support and opposition to the proposal.

Former Geneseo alderman Brenda Johnson noted the topic’s “polarizing effect” but added backyard chickens “is not uncharted territory.”

“A number of local communities have chickens with no adverse problems,” she said. “It’s an engaging hobby that encourages self-reliance.”

Backyard chicken supporter Kim Windisch said “people care about local food and self-sustainable living.”

The backyard chicken ordinance under consideration “is very strict, which is good” said Windisch.

If it had passed, the ordinance would only allow six hens, no roosters, while requiring participants to complete a backyard chicken education course and register their birds with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“Only people who are very passionate (are going to take the time) to go through the steps and follow the protocols,” said Windisch.

Diane Greenwood, who was opposed to chickens in Geneseo, noted in-town residents pay higher taxes.

“I don’t appreciate paying those higher taxes if I have livestock living next door,” she said.

Diane Greenwood said she felt chickens and an “unsightly chicken coop” could potentially cause property values to decline.

John Greenwood told the council “chickens can get lice, mites and other parasites. They attract varmints. Uncared-for coops can lead to disease, rodent infestation and flies.”

Resident Jon Dahl said foxes “already are in the neighborhood” and added he was worried chickens could attract more predators, including coyotes.

Terry Blackert noted, “I was raised on a farm. The only way I like chicken is fried.”

City administrator Lisa Kotter said a number of e-mails and letters – both supporting and opposing the issue — had been received at city hall.

“My goal was to have a good discussion,” said alderman Brett Barnhart who requested the ordinance appear before the council.

“People around town just don’t want chickens,” said alderman Bob Wachtel. “A lot of them (grew up on farms) farms and don’t want chickens in the city.”

Alderman Martin Rothschild wondered aloud if the issue was generational. “Most older people are against it, but most younger people are for it.”

Rothschild initially asked for the issue to be delayed in order to have more time to consider enforcement and safety concerns.

“A lot of people think we’re moving way too fast on this. I’d like to push it back two weeks and give people the chance to voice their opinion either way.”

His motion to move the topic to the city’s committee of the whole meeting failed after no other alderman seconded the motion.

Aldermen then voted on an ordinance to permit chickens. Aldermen Barnhart and James Roodhouse supported the measure, while aldermen Rothschild, Wachtel, Paula Simosky, Craig Arnold, Sean Johnson and Jason Robinson were opposed.