Will County approves backyard chicken provision
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org July 19, 2012 8:22PM
Ocean Ramirez, 7, Manoalani Ramirez, 4, and Jerry Garrabrant, 12, hold chickens on the Garrabrant family's property in Wheatland Township near Plainfield Tuesday, June 19, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:39AM
JOLIET — Cheeps don’t come cheap.
The Will County Board on Thursday approved a comprehensive revision of the county zoning ordinance, with a provision for allowing backyard chickens in some unincorporated residential areas.
However, the issue of cost remains to be discussed. Applicants for backyard chicken coops would have to pay $675 to apply for a special-use permit.
Supporters say that kind of fee could discourage people who are interested.
The county will examine the fee schedule separately, later this summer and early in the fall.
“I am, in general, for the passage of the ordinance, but I have a couple of concerns,” said Zoe Cremer, of Wheatland Township, at the Thursday board meeting.
“I just wanted to address some concerns about the further revision, about the fee schedule.”
“We were concerned with, if it would be possible in the future, to not require a special-use permit entirely for the animals,” Cremer said.
David Dubois, a staff member for the Will County Land Use Department, addressed the potential for not requiring a special-use permit.
After the ordinance is approved, the county could have a committee review the matter to determine whether there are requirements the county may want to change, he said.
“That would be the board’s discretion,” said Dubois, who is director of the development review division and zoning administrator.
Regardless of the fee schedule, maintaining a backyard chicken coop cannot be done on the cheap. It takes a commitment of time and effort to do it right.
“From beginning to end, it’s an investment. Not only monetarily, but it’s an investment in our family, it’s an investment in our future, and it’s an investment in our home,” said Kindra Garrabrant of Wheatland Township.
Garrabrant wants to keep her backyard chicken coop in her unincorporated neighborhood, near Plainfield. In June, she received a notice from the land use department, saying that keeping the chickens was against the law.
She was informed that it was not a permitted use to keep agricultural fowl on property zoned residential.
On Thursday, the county board’s vote opened some doors for the Garrabrant family.
“Of course, I’m happy that it passed,” Garrabrant said Thursday night. “I think there still could be improvements made upon this, and I believe that they’ve made room for that to happen in the future.”
Garrabrant — along with Cremer, who lives in the same neighborhood — is concerned about the potential economic barrier.
“Six hundred and seventy-five dollars is a lot of money, and I think that would, on many levels, discourage people from looking at this for their own family,” Garrabrant said. “It just seems like a whole lot of money for what they’re going to consider a special-use permit.”
That said, Garrabrant emphasizes that a properly maintained backyard chicken coop is not cheap.
“You can’t do this process — with all of your heart and soul poured into it — and get out cheaply or inexpensively,” she said.
And cheap is not the point. There are other ideals involved.
Garrabrant wants to use the backyard chicken coop to educate her daughter about food sources and sustainability.
She also wants to teach her daughter about responsibility. And the process brings the whole family together — Andrew Garrabrant; his wife, Kindra; and their daughter, Jerry, 12.
Yes, the family intends to save money on eggs. However, the birds are considered pets, and not “meat” chickens.
So you save some money, Kindra said, but you arrive at those savings through hard work, a lot of learning and a lot of family bonding.