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Peoria City Council presses pause on giving OK to backyard chickens

In this 2013 photo, a chicken stands by three eggs in a portable chicken coop owned by Sandy Schmidt in Silver Spring, Md. The Peoria City Council has decided to wait a month before deciding whether to move forward with an ordinance to allow backyard chickens.
Charles Dharapak
In this 2013 photo, a chicken stands by three eggs in a portable chicken coop owned by Sandy Schmidt in Silver Spring, Md. The Peoria City Council has decided to wait a month before deciding whether to move forward with an ordinance to allow backyard chickens.

Citizens on both sides of an effort to allow backyard chickens in Peoria took the opportunity to express their opinions during a lengthy discussion at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“Chickens in urban settings is very normal. Across the nation, most major cities already allow backyard chickens,” said Kimberly Giraldo, a resident of The Uplands who initiated the effort when she submitted a request to allow the keeping of chickens on residential properties to the planning and zoning committee.

“When you look at the top 150 largest cities in Illinois, 71% of them allow backyard chickens, and this community thinks Peoria should join them.”

But the development of an ordinance isn’t imminent after the council chose to take no action beyond receiving and filing the initial presentation, with plans to revisit the matter in a month.

“Let's be honest, this information is something that has been filling our email box for last couple weeks,” said Third District council member Tim Riggenbach. “We've never talked about this as a body until tonight, so I'm not – no disrespect for anybody out there. I agree the passion is palatable, but we need to talk about that as the policy makers for a minute before we run into this with an investment which will take some dollars from the city.”

The city staff sought direction from the council on whether it should dedicate time to researching best practices, consult with Peoria County officials and pursue formulation of an ordinance proposal with input from Peoria County Animal Protection Services (PCAPS).

Mayor Rita Ali requested to have a cost estimation developed and provided to council in 30 days.

“It gives more time to simmer this information, to absorb this information. We’ve got some emails, maybe some calls from individuals related to this, and I think that we heard from probably 15 people tonight who spoke to the issue,” Ali said.

“I would really like to know the cost, estimated cost, how much capacity is required for something like this. Because it seems like a huge undertaking for code enforcement and facilities, and I want to know what's all involved.”

Kimberly Giraldo speaks to the Peoria City Council to advocate for an ordinance to allow backyard chickens as fellow supporters fill the gallery on Tuesday.
Joe Deacon
Kimberly Giraldo speaks to the Peoria City Council to advocate for an ordinance to allow backyard chickens as fellow supports fill the gallery on Tuesday.

The agenda packet provided to the council included a letter from Peoria County Administrator Scott Sorrel that raised concerns about the risks of disease, added costs associated with enforcement, and the possible additional burden on animal protection and shelter services.

“I want to ask for a compromise. There is a lot of details and a lot of nuances, and I know that it's so much easier to just say no. So what I'm asking is, let's try a pilot: Give us 100 licenses,” said Giraldo, who was among the many yellow-clad backyard chicken supporters in attendance at the four-hour meeting.

But several residents also spoke against allowing chickens in residential areas.

“I simply lack that faith that people would take the responsibility to adequately care for or handle the cost of raising chickens,” said Sandra Crow.

The majority of the council seemed open to the possibility of permitting backyard chickens, but felt more information was needed before heading down the path of developing an ordinance.

“There's a lot of things that I think are going to be important to consider, but I think it's certainly worthy of just going back and doing some research and bringing it back to the table,” said at-large council member Bernice Gordon-Young.

Second District council member Chuck Grayeb cast the lone dissenting vote, decrying what he saw as “analysis paralysis” in choosing to wait a month before taking the matter further.

“I would say this when it's all said and done, what do you want to bet there aren't that many folks who would like to do this? But those who do, let's see if there's a way we can accommodate them,” Grayeb said.

Salvation Army shelter

Following a public hearing at the start of the meeting, the council as part of the consent agenda approved submitting a $2 million Urban Shelter Grant application to the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity on behalf of the Salvation Army.

The grant will go toward the Salvation Army’s $11 million project to construct a new homeless shelter at the Labor Temple building site.

“The Salvation Army shelter that we're referencing in this grant application is the only low-barrier shelter in the city of Peoria, and it provides and serves a very specific population,” Riggenbach said. “We're very grateful to have them and appreciate their taking the lead on this very important matter.”

The new shelter will expand capacity from 45 individuals to 72, more adequately meeting daily needs and adding an enclosed outdoor courtyard for those staying at the shelter. Other Salvation Army funds are expected to cover the remaining costs.

April financial report

Finance director Kyle Cratty presented the council with an unaudited financial report through the end of April, showing revenues up 2.3% and expenses up 7.9% versus the expected budget.

“What I do want to call out with that is, that is heavily influenced by how we are spending our remaining American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds,” Cratty said. “Those have been being spent in a little bit faster rate than we anticipated in our model, so that is what's affecting that large increase. It's not necessarily operational changes.”

Cratty said overall, the city’s finances in the general fund are strong, with sales and income tax revenues ahead of last year’s pace.

In other business

The council voted in favor of the following:

  • submitting the annual action plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with a grant allocation of $2.6 million;
  • spending a maximum of $250,000 to purchase five vehicles for the police department’s Neighborhood Services Unit;
  • accepting a $175,000 recruitment and retention grant from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board, and spending $63,000 on 300 personalized Yeti coolers for police department employees;
  • finalizing an intergovernmental agreement with Peoria Township to lease a portion of the township’s office building for the police department’s co-response project;
  • approving contracts of not more than $750,000 for vacant lot clearing services;
  • receiving and filing first readings on amendments to the city code regarding mounted solar energy devices and parking garages.

Also as part of the consent agenda, the council approved a total of 63 appointments and reappointments to various city commissions and committees. Under unfinished business, Ali announced that the application deadline for the interim treasurer position has been extended to July 21.

Eleven residents spoke during an hour-long public comments session, with more than half renewing calls for the city council to adopt a local resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.