Board could vote to rewrite zoning ordinance Thursday
By Tony Graf email@example.com July 17, 2012 10:34PM
Chickens are shown in a coop June 19 on the Garrabrant family's property in Wheatland Township near Plainfield. The Will County Board could vote Thursday on allowing backyard chickens in unincorporated areas of the county. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 19, 2012 6:22AM
The Will County Board could vote Thursday on a comprehensive rewrite of the county zoning ordinance, with provisions for allowing sustainable, environmentally friendly development practices.
Among the many provisions, the ordinance would allow for the keeping of backyard chickens — which is good news for the Garrabrant family in Wheatland Township.
This summer, The Herald-News has written about the family’s effort to keep a chicken coop on their property in an unincorporated neighborhood near Plainfield. Under the current county ordinance, it is not a permitted use to keep agricultural fowl on property zoned residential.
Overall, the new county ordinance provides for such development practices as wind turbines and solar collectors, as well as smaller-level practices such as backyard chickens.
Will County has not done a comprehensive revision of its zoning ordinance in 35 years. In that time, there have been more than 70 amendments to the current ordinance. Those many amendments have produced a document that is not well organized or easy to use, said Curt Paddock, director of the Will County Land Use Department.
The new document was a chance to take a big-picture approach.
“The entire point of the project was to take a comprehensive look at how the document was formatted,” Paddock said.
The new, well-organized, 250-plus-page document was made possible by help from a U.S. Energy Department grant, Paddock said. That funding allowed for a consultant to participate in the revision process, and help remove any unnecessary legal impediments to sustainable development.
The Garrabrants live near 135th Street and Plainfield-Naperville Road. In their neighborhood, there are several residents who support a backyard-chicken ordinance. However, some of those neighbors have expressed concerns about cost. Applicants for backyard chicken coops would have to pay $675 to apply for a special-use permit. That, they say, could discourage potential users.
The document to be voted on Thursday does not address the fee schedule for special-use permit applications. That schedule will be examined separately, beginning in August and early fall, Paddock said. Until then, the current fee schedule, set by elected officials of the Will County Board, will remain in force, Paddock said.
Paddock said he is not taking a position of advocacy on fees one way or the other. However, he does wish to emphasize that fees are based on the amount of time and effort the county must expend on the processing of a special-use permit. And backyard chickens is an issue that does require time and effort, especially because not all neighbors in a certain area will be in support of it.
The county board meets at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St. in Joliet.