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La Grange Board Won't Allow Chickens, Upholds Removal of Resident's Hens

Citing negative feedback and excessive time allotment, trustees will not further investigate a poultry-permitting ordinance and has ordered one man to shut down his coop.

The La Grange Board of Trustees has said no to chickens for now.

Resident Jeff Cogelja appeared before the Board on Monday night to appeal for an extension or an exemption to allow him to continue keeping hens in his backyard—currently not allowed under Village of La Grange code—but was told that the Board has decided not to pursue amending the code to allow poultry, and that an enforcement action against him would still be pursued.

Cogelja originally appeared before the Board in April to request the ordinance, and in the time since has established a four-hen coop in his fenced in backyard to provide a daily supply of fresh, organic eggs. (While acknowledging this was “bending the law,” he told the Board on Monday that “that’s how change happens.”)

But Village President Liz Asperger said that when trustees polled their friends and neighbors in La Grange about the concept, as they were asked to do in April, they found a “considerably negative” response to a proposed ordinance, with worries about noise, odor, disease, disturbing other pets and attracting unwanted wildlife.

“There were lots of reasons given… they relate some to what are likely realities and some that are simply perception,” Asperger said. “The most important fact that has swayed the majority of our board is that the majority of the feedback individuals received was negative. “

For his part, Cogelja said this baffles him and that nearly everyone he has spoken with supports the idea. He contended that any such concerns are completely unfounded—he has seen no predators or pet difficulties (he has a full coop and his yard is fenced, and the chickens get along well with his dog) and the hens neither make a racket nor smell nor spread disease.

“They’re quieter than most dogs,” Cogelja noted. “There’s no noise; there’s no smell... People have these ‘perceptions,’ but there are things that disprove that. I don’t understand not changing an ordinance because of the ‘perceptions’ of something.”

In addition, he pointed to places like Winnetka and Glencoe as quality neighborhoods that allow poultry, to counter the charge that chickens degrade a town’s character. (Western Springs is still evaluating a test case; other towns have rejected ordinances.)

Board members also spoke to other reasons for opposing taking any action towards changing an ordinance, primarily that it would involve expending too much of Village staff’s time and effort.

“My concern remains with the amount of staff time that would be involved,” said Trustee Mark Kuchler. “I don’t have a concern with your chickens, but I do have a concern with the amount of time [that would be expended] by staff.”

“I’ve not heard of any groundswell of support for this outside of your block,” added Trustee Jeff Nowak.

President Asperger called what has transpired, including a personal staff meeting with Cogelja, “a thoughtful process, a fair process and an engaged process.”

Trustee Michael Horvath, one two trustees in favor of researching an ordinance change (the other being Trustee Jim Palermo), dissented, saying that a Plan Commission should at least look at the idea.

“I certainly didn’t see any majority negative feedback,” Horvath said. “I don’t know if it’s a thorough process for us just to walk around and talk to our neighbors and go, ‘is this a good idea or not?’

The current action against Cogelja springs from two official complaints that he was harboring poultry (not, as he pointed out, noise or odor complaints.) President Asperger said that with a majority of trustees not in favor of looking into any new ordinance, the Village had no choice but to enforce its code and force Cogelja to remove his hens.

Cogelja also suggested that he’s hardly the only resident in La Grange to keep poultry—just the one who came forward and who got pointed out. (If true, other residents might be hesitant to step forward for fear of losing their hens.) At least, he says, he does a safe place to send his “ladies” when his time runs out in just over a month.

Cogelja added that even if he does lose the hens for now, he intends to keep the coop that he built and try a new tactic—perhaps assembling enough signatures to force a Village-wide referendum vote.

Chicken November 10, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Visit our chicken blog!!! backyardchickensinlagrange.blogspot.com or follow us on twitter @Chickens18 We need as much support as we can get to save our ladies!!
Kathleen M. Weber November 14, 2012 at 03:16 PM
The lack of a fair and engaged process as described is indeed a disappointment (independent of this particular issue) as it relates to an overall approach to better governance. I had a good chuckle (or cluckle) when I read the sampling approach! I would have expected more from LaGrange. On the subject of a poultry ordinance, I strongly support the keeping of a defined number (no more than 4) of hens (not roosters) for individual use and enjoyment. Our family (here in LaGrange) has enjoyed the educational experience of not only 'harboring' but also initiating & watching the incubation and hatching process since our children were toddlers. Its been fascinating and has facilitated numerous worthwhile discussions over the years. Equally important, there is no comparison to the use of fresh eggs from the hens you have fed (I wouldn't have believed this until we had our own hens). It would be hard for me to go back to using the old refrigerated nutritionally degraded eggs trucked across the country and purchased in a grocery store! Lastly, there is indeed a fairly large community of hen keepers here in LaGrange! Kathleen Weber (Reardon)
Jeff Cogelja November 24, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Hi chicken supporters. Unfortunatey, I had to get rid of my girls last weekend or was told I would face legal action. We are very sad that the coop is empty and I am trying to get the needed signatures for the advisory referendum by January 7, but have had to spend my free time moving my aged and ailing parents out of their home of 60 years - not a quick task. If anyone can collect a sheet of signatures, please email us at chickens4lagrange@gmail.com and I will forward a copy of the petition. The collector needs to sign in front of a Notary to verify that they witnessed the signatures. Please help if you can. Thanks you for your support and for helping bring chickens back to La Grange. Jeff
Johnny Wilkins March 14, 2013 at 03:27 PM
As the potholes grow, the streets crumble and the light bulbs on streets go unattended, the village denies home owners basic rights. Set up some guidelines such as maximum of 5 hens - no roosters, it is easy and healthy for people to maintain these quiet birds. Far better than dogs which are allowed out, barking in the middle of the night or leaving "gifts" on our parkways. Let's go La Grange, do some good for the people. The protein will help my ankle heal, twisted from walking on my street that resembles an asphalt-patched moon-scape. Patches on patches. Fix the roads, fix the chicken ordinance for Pete's sake and all of our sake. Johnny
Beth June 07, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Good luck Jeff! Keep fighting.

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