Goat slaughter sours Kane County panel's view on couple keeping animals

It was the shooting, skinning, eating and burning of two goats in the backyard that seemed to be the last straw for Kane County officials looking to end a multiyear feud among neighbors on Willow Creek Drive.

Michael Kowalczyk's property stands out. He lives in a farmhouse that dates back to the late 1800s. It's an Elburn address, but technically it's unincorporated territory south of Elburn village limits. His neighbors all live on upscale estates with property values and homes that dwarf his own. But it's not the age and size of Kowalczyk's property neighbors don't like. It's the smell.

"They have livestock that creates excessive amounts of odor, vermin and flies," said Robert Raimondi, a neighbor of Kowalczyk. "It is the eyesore of the neighborhood. Their property is a smelly, noisy, unkempt mess."

To the Kowalczyks, any noises or smells are just part of the lifestyle associated with keeping animals. They don't consider themselves part of the neighborhood. They told county officials their property is not part of the development that brought their upscale neighbors to the area.

"It's not our fault that our house is only 1,500 square feet," said Stacey Kowalczyk. "It is very obvious that (the neighbors) don't want us to be in the area. These people just have all the money in the world. They think their house looks good. Well, I think mine looks good."

Looking good, to the Kowalczyks, includes painting the fence facing their complaining neighbors in a very distinctive striped pattern. Other acts that county officials deemed part of the feud included blaring "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd when the neighbors complained about animal odors. And there was the time the neighbors called the police after hearing the gunshots at the Kowalczyks' house after a loud argument.

Police arrived to find two dead goats. But there was no pursuit of charges as Kowalczyk explained he shot the goats to eat them. Raimondi said Kowalczyk burned the carcasses of the goats for several days in the backyard.

Stacey Kowalczyk said they killed and ate the goats only because they believed the county would allow them to keep the rest of their animals if the goats were gone.

"We chose to eat the meat instead of waste it," she told county board members this week. "I'm sorry that it upset people."

The Kowalczyks sought an amendment to the development agreement for the neighborhood to explicitly allow the keeping of fowl. The couple asked for no more than 16 chickens, five geese and two ducks.

But even before they could make their pitch to the board, Kane County sheriff's deputies had to be called in to break up an argument between the Kowalczyks and Raimondis in the aisles of the board room. The fight centered on an allegation the Kowalczyks stole all the copies of the remarks the Raimondis intended to read to the board.

It didn't take long for county board member Drew Frasz to urge his colleagues to help him bring an end to at least the fight about the animals. Frasz represents the county district containing the property.

"This issue has been going on for years and years," Frasz said. "We're talking multiple years of complaints. Multiple visits by myself, sheriff's officers and code enforcement officers. It just seems to be getting worse and worse. The (Kowalczyks) have been antagonistic against all the neighbors all the way along. It's just a pretty miserable situation. Livestock is not meant to be brought up in an estate subdivision. You should really live on a farm."

The board's development committee voted unanimously against allowing livestock or fowl in the neighborhood. The full county board will take a final vote on the request next month.

  The epicenter of one of the hottest neighbor feuds in Elburn is a home on Willow Creek Drive that some say doesn't fit in with the surrounding area. Brian Hill/
  Stacey Kowalczyk holds one of her chickens at her Elburn home. Kowalczyk says they raise the birds to provide eggs for her family. Brian Hill/
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