Supporters of fresh eggs in Libertyville shouldn't count their chickens just yet.
While the village board will have the final say on a test program to allow residents to keep chickens, a negative recommendation from its special projects committee will carry considerable weight.
The group of three village trustees this past week recommended 2-1 against allowing residents with a minimum of a quarter-acre to have as many as three hens. The suggestion was for a two-year test program to initially involve five residents to be reviewed every six months.
Potentials for noise, smell and attraction of predators were the main objections by committee members Todd Gaines and Jay Justice.
"If we allow chickens, what's next? Pigs? Goats? We're not an agricultural use, we're residential," Gaines said.
The village zoning code currently allows chickens on residential property of 5 acres or more with a maximum of one home, and it does not apply to commercial or industrial areas. Gaines said his backyard abuts three others, for example, and because of the number of homes that would qualify, concentrations of chickens at some point could become dense in some neighborhoods and attract coyotes or other predators.
"You have to be careful. There are a lot of quarter-acre lots in the village," he said.
Trustee Jim Moran, who chairs the committee, said there shouldn't be any issues if the rules governing the construction of the pen and its operation are crafted correctly. He was the sole supporter.
"I think there's a demand for it," Moran said. "Everything I've seen, the problems are more perceived than what the reality is." He added he has gotten "a lot of feedback" and is telling callers to contact other trustees in advance of the official vote.
"I think there will be some good debate," he said.
Chicken-keeping has become a more visible issue in recent years, though the practice in Lake County is limited.
After three discussions regrading one resident's request, the Round Lake village board this past week opted 5-1 not to allow it. Trustees invested considerable time studying the matter, according to Mayor Dan MacGillis.
"We listened, we heard everything and we decided we wouldn't carry it any further," he said.
Mundelein also has voted down a measure, but it has been approved in some communities. Deerfield, for example, has a test program running until March 1, 2014, that allows up to four hens.
On a broader scale, Lake County is considering several measures to support local food production, including rule changes regarding hen and beekeeping in the unincorporated areas. A recent public hearing attracted scores of people, and the county zoning board recommended allowing up to six hens on a minimum half-acre lot.
The county board's planning, building and zoning committee on Nov. 5 is scheduled to consider that and other rule changes, with recommendations to the full county board.
"We do get calls from a number of residents who want chickens because they want fresh eggs," said David Husemoller, senior planner for Lake County. "Five (or) 10 years ago, you didn't hear much about that at all."
Gaines said village officials were obliged to discuss such issues as they arise but didn't see a groundswell of support for this measure.
"There's just not enough public outcry to allow chickens," he said.