Chickens could become election issue in Fox Lake

Posted2/8/2013 8:08 PM
  • Ed Bender, left, and Donnie Schmit.

    Ed Bender, left, and Donnie Schmit.

  • Donny Schmit

    Donny Schmit

  • Ed Bender

    Ed Bender

Chickens might play a role in the April 9 Fox Lake mayoral election because of a failed proposal to allow residents to raise hens on their property.

Supporters of the effort to raise chickens for food and educational purposes say they are upset the board voted 4-2 in January to defeat the measure and will back village board and mayoral challengers in the election.

"We have thrown our support behind Donny Schmit and his slate of candidates," said Rob Watson, 38, who was among a handful of residents who helped draft rules for the proposal. "I think, from here, we will continue to try and educate the community about hens and, also, alternative board members."

Schmit is running for mayor against incumbent Ed Bender. Schmit heads the Common Sense Party, which features trustee candidates Bernice Konwent, Ron Stocl and Jeff Jensen.

Bender is crying foul. He said that had he been allowed to vote on a "chicken ordinance," he would have supported it. In Fox Lake, the mayor votes only to break a tie.

"I probably would have voted in favor of it," he said Friday. "I would have heavily regulated it, but I would have voted in favor of people owning and raising chickens."

Currently, chickens are restricted to property zoned for agriculture uses, Fox Lake officials said. Like other communities, Fox Lake was approached recently by people looking to allow hens in residential areas.

Arlington Heights and Mundelein have voted against such an effort, while Batavia has approved one. Palatine also voted against it, but allowed one person with more than one acre to raise chickens.

Watson said supporters of the proposal want chickens so they can grow food in their backyards.

"It's an emotional thing for us. It's about feeding our families and eating healthy food," he said.

However, Watson said the village board "just laughed it off."

"You could tell they had already made up their minds. They hadn't read the guidelines or seriously considered our issue," he said.

Among the "no" votes were Trustees Kevin Burt, Val Griseta and Jon Mumford, all running with Bender on the election slate Focused on Fox Lake. The trustees who voted against it said they didn't want the smell, the noise or chicken coops in town.

"I don't think we need to add feral chickens to the feral dogs, feral cats, feral rabbits running around town," Mumford said during the January meeting.

Schmit, who was one of two trustees to vote in favor of the proposal, said he has raised ducks and geese, and no one has ever complained.

"My neighbors never had any problem with them," he said.

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