No birds, but maybe bees for Park Ridge residents after Council discusses backyard animals

Allen Cunningham/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Saying that residents have asked about keeping backyard chickens, bees and perhaps other animals in Park Ridge, City Council members discussed the topic at a City of the Whole meeting Aug. 21 and leaned more towards honey than eggs.

In a non-binding vote meant to gauge initial interest, council members voted 4-2 in favor of pursuing the topic of allowing apiaries, or bee colonies, in residential areas.

Community Preservation and Development Director Drew Awsumb presented a memorandum to the city council providing general information on allowing residents to have chickens, bees and pigs in their yards, including how neighboring communities handle the issue.

Fred Sanchez, the 2nd ward alderperson, was not present at the meeting.

The council also considered the prospect of allowing residents to set up chicken coops, and a non-binding vote resulted in a 3-3 tie.

Current city ordinances do not allow for residential areas to harbor cattle, goats, swine, horses, poultry, fowl and pigeons.

Mayor Marty Maloney clarified that the votes would not be binding. “If there isn’t a consensus here tonight, then we kind of put it on the back burner. Maybe not literal in the case of swine,” he quipped, “but we put it on the back burner for a year.”

Pigs were left completely off the table, so to speak, with all the alderpersons agreeing they were not in favor of allowing them in residential areas.

Park Ridge, which shares a border with Chicago, where chicken coops are allowed, has seen waves of interest when it comes to backyard coops. A 2020 petition racked up over 1,100 signatures to allow for hens in Park Ridge, pointing out that Evanston, Highland Park and Des Plaines allow their residents to have chickens.

In his dissenting vote against backyard coops, 1st ward alderperson John Moran said the city’s role of enforcing city standards on residential chicken coops would be a bigger issue than allowing for residences to have coops.

“It’s just not worth it for the few people who want this right now,” he said.

“If you don’t maintain [coops] properly, there will be a terrible smell. The last thing the city needs to be involved in is ...proper maintenance of chicken coops.”

“Bees, on the other hand, I guess would be okay. I would like more research on that,” Moran added.

Moran added that he would be open to a referendum vote in which residents could weigh in directly on whether they would like chicken coops in residential areas.

5th ward alderperson Joseph Steinfels voted yes on chickens and said he would be interested in a pilot program in which chicken coops could be allowed. Steinfels says that as a father of four children, he knows there is an educational experience to having chickens, even for only one season. He also added that the benefits of having chickens would outweigh the potential problems.

“There are neighbors who are certainly concerned about the nuisance and I am receptive and I respect that,” said Steinfels. “But I mean, a noisy dog or a neighbor who doesn’t pick up after the dog is also a nuisance.”

Evanston, Glenview and Niles allow for beekeeping, according to the memorandum.