Backyard chicken proposal not pursued in La Grange
Jeff Cogelja pets Myrtle, a Rhode Island Red hen, in his La Grange backyard whilecoop mates Bertha and Henrietta watch. Cogelja wants residents to be able to raise chickens at their homes. | Jane Michaels—Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 10, 2012 1:54AM
LA GRANGE — The chance to raise chickens in La Grange backyards seems to have come and gone.
Jeff Cogelja, who lives on the 200 block of South Ashland Avenue, expressed disappointment his bid to overturn a ban on backyard poultry was not taken up Oct. 8 by the Village Board.
“I guess I have no choice but to get rid of them,” he said of his four hens. “But I don’t understand how it was decided just like that. Where was the process?”
Trustees Mike Horvath and Jim Palermo, who supported Cogelja’s efforts to revise an ordinance prohibiting chickens and other livestock, said they, too, were surprised by how swiftly the matter was dismissed.
“I would say 98 of 100 people I talked to were either positive or indifferent” to allowing chickens, Horvath said. “I didn’t think this would be the process. Normally we do some research and hold meetings.”
Cogelja approached the board in April and presented a petition signed by 60 residents seeking an end to the chicken ban imposed in 1981. Trustees Bill Holder, Mark Langan and Jeff Nowak opposed the change because of noise, smell and other concerns.
Village President Liz Asperger said she hadn’t yet formed an opinion in April, but that residents should have a chance to weigh in on the matter, and board members needed more time to study and get residents’ opinions.
In the meantime, Cogelja ordered four hens, which he raised since the day-old chicks arrived through overnight express shipping in May. He built a two-level coop, which matches the siding and trim on his home.
“I’ve gotten attached. My kids are attached,” he said.
In September, Cogelja was informed of two complaints concerning the chickens, so he held an open house to address any concerns of neighbors. He also invited village officials to have a first-hand look, and Horvath, Palermo and Trustee Mark Kuchler visited.
Kuchler said he was essentially neutral on the issue, but objected to the cost in staff time studying the matter, consulting other communities and drawing up a new ordinance.
Cogelja said he was hopeful for a hearing before the board, that he might become a test case, like Wendy Vichick in Western Springs, who is permitted to raise hens while the village revises its ordinance governing backyard chickens.
But at a meeting Oct. 5, Cogelja was given an extension of 90 days to comply with the village’s ordinance and find another home for the hens. He decided to press his case before the board again, hoping to buy more time with help from his two supporters.
“I looked at how other suburbs have converted their ordinances, and it didn’t happen the first time, but their petitioners were allowed time to gather support,” Cogelja told the board Oct. 8. “Thirteen other suburbs have changed their ordinances, and Winnetka, Glencoe, Elmhurst and Burr Ridge are in review.”
Cogelja’s request was not an official item on the agenda, and was not brought up for a vote. He spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Asperger said trustees were given time to sample community opinion in deciding how to balance Cogelja’s rights as a property owner to raise chickens with neighbors’ rights to be free of noise, odor and nuisance concerns.
“The majority of feedback was negative,” she said. “We don’t want chickens on our 50-foot lots, and there were lots of reasons given. It’s been a fair and engaged process.”