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Normal Town Council Rejects Backyard Chickens

NORMAL – The Normal Town Council voted 6-1 against a proposal to allow backyard chickens within city limits. Only Mayor Chris Koos voted yes on the proposal, citing the positive feedback from many other cities that had passed similar ordinances in recent years.

Proponents pushed for the ordinance as a way to promote local food sustainability and pointed to the success of similar ordinances in many communities across the nation.

In the public hearing held June 9th, the opposition to the ordinance focused largely on histoplasmosis, a lung disease contracted from a fungus that grows in undisturbed, nitrogen-rich environments such as chicken droppings. However, no one on the City Council cited histoplasmosis as a concern with backyard chickens. The fungus that causes histoplasmosis needs large accumulations of chicken droppings, left undisturbed in moist conditions for long periods of time, a problem not associated with backyard chickens.

Council members gave very different reasons for their opposition to backyard chickens.

Two of the members who were initially excited about the ordinance said that many of their constituents were opposed to the idea. Cheryl Gaines said that constituents were on both sides of the issue but that there was a lot of opposition. Sonja Reece called the proposal progressive, dismissing the purported problems, but thought that the town was not ready for it.

Jason Chambers and Jeffrey Fritzen argued from a property-rights standpoint, viewing backyard chickens as a potential nuissance and an enfringement on the property rights of neighbors. Chuck Scott worried about problems with enforcement. Adam Nielsen said that he had a problem with chickens within city limits and thought the issue should not have been considered in a public hearing.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Koos said that he thought about proposing a sunset clause, so that the backyard chicken ordinance could be reevaluated at a future date. But in gauging the opposition of the council, he did not bother to propose the compromise.

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