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Article updated: 1/21/2013 12:45 PM

Arlington Heights to hear from backyard chicken supporters Tuesday

By Melissa Silverberg

Backyard chicken supporters are still squawking in Arlington Heights.

On Tuesday night the village board will consider requests from two residents wanting to keep up to three hens in their backyards. A similar request was rejected by trustees nearly a year ago.

Mary Green, of the 200 block of South Mitchell, and Matt Scallon, of the 400 block of South Walnut, are both requesting a variance to municipal code that prohibits chickens, among other unusual pets.

Last February the board rejected a similar request from Scallon by a 7-2 vote, with only trustees Mike Sidor and Carol Blackwood supporting the measure. Other trustees were concerned about noise, odors, disease and the potential of chickens to attract unwanted predators.

Green and Scallon are not asking the village overturn its current ordinance governing animals, but instead are seeking exceptions to the rule for their individual properties.

Their requests include a three-year sunset clause, meaning that after three years the village will be able to review the situation and determine if they want to reverse the decision or uphold it.

Green said she notified all neighbors within 250 feet of her property about Tuesday's meeting and obtained letters of support from experts including a veterinarian. She and Scallon have also informally collected more than 100 signatures of Arlington Heights residents who support backyard chickens, she said.

The proposal has ruffled a few feathers. Green said she does know of a few neighbors who are planning to speak out against her proposal.

"My ability to have a pet in my backyard should be my own business," she said. "Because it's an unusual pet. I understand there is this whole process to go through, but I'm not out to provoke my neighbors in any way."

Green said she and her son are both allergic to fur, so the chickens would be pets for their family, as well as serve an educational purpose.

"We want our son to feel connected to understanding where food comes from," she said.

Jennifer Murtoff, an urban chicken consultant in Chicago, testified on Scallon's behalf last February and spoke in August at an educational meeting for about 60 interested residents at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.

"I've seen very positive examples of chicken-keeping in suburban and urban settings," she said. "It's a lot of fun to go out and gather eggs from your own backyard hens. People want to feel closer to their food supply now. It's a growing trend."

Several other suburbs already allow backyard chickens, including Batavia, Cary, Evanston, Lombard, Oak Park and Naperville. Palatine will be discussing a measure to allow backyard chickens tonight.

"None of them wants to be the first and set the precedent in the Northwest suburbs," Green said of the Arlington Heights village board. "But I'm hoping they will be bigger than that and see that Matt and I will be responsible pet owners."

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