Aurora debates butcher's request to set up shop, slaughter poultry
At first, Fermin Benitez's business plan reads like any other — hours of business, delivery methods, target market.
But what sets his idea apart from any other Aurora shop also is contained in the plan: his intent to slaughter, process and sell chicken, turkey, pheasant, duck, quail and rabbit from a former brass foundry west of the Fox River.
Aurora aldermen debated Tuesday night whether Benitez's business, a specialty butcher shop called Fermin's Poultry, should be given a conditional use permit to operate at 629 S. River St. across from Aurora Animal Control.
While some are enthused the business would occupy a vacant and unkempt industrial building, others expressed concerns the city might struggle regulating the cleanliness of slaughtering procedures.
"How do we intend to monitor a business like this?" Alderman Lynda Elmore asked. "If we are truly going to take responsibility for a business of this type and allow it to come in, we have to monitor it."
Chief Management Officer Carie Anne Ergo said property standards employees would be assigned the regular responsibility of asking the Kane County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Agriculture — the agencies responsible for inspecting the businesses — if the shop has any violations.
Mayor Tom Weisner said he would have more concerns if the shop was an uncommon business in an industry not as highly regulated as food production. He said city employees should have access to county and state records to keep tabs on the butcher shop and could gain them through a Freedom of Information Act request if necessary.
Fermin's Poultry already operates a Chicago location, and aldermen on the planning and development committee, which previously reviewed Benitez's proposal, did some research on that location's sanitation history, Alderman Mike Saville said.
"We found a couple minor issues, but nothing that was not correctable," Saville said.
Namely, the Chicago location once was cited for allowing some poultry droppings to fall to the street when taking deliveries in an alley.
"There's a pattern with this operator," Alderman Rick Mervine said. "If something comes to light, it's dealt with and never comes up again."
To gain a conditional use permit, the butcher shop would have to improve the property's fencing, landscaping, parking lots and building facades. Live animal deliveries must be screened from River Street and the city can initiate a public hearing about revocation of the permit "if there is any evidence of repeated violations of any kind," according to a draft of the ordinance that could grant conditional use.
Despite the required improvements, Alderman Stephanie Kifowit said the butcher shop is not the right use for the location.
"Is this the highest and best use for this property? I don't think it is," Kifowit said. "That could just be counterproductive to the open space and the river."
Often the lone voice of opposition to proposals before city council, Alderman Rick Lawrence said Benitez's business deserves a chance to succeed and rejuvenate the vacant foundry.
"If he's a good reputable business, he'll do fine," Lawrence said. "If not, he'll be shut down."
Aldermen will vote on whether to grant a conditional use permit for the butcher shop at Tuesday's city council meeting.
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