DeKALB – Current and soon-to-be DeKalb city officials said they don’t plan to further address the backyard chickens issue following a majority of voters Tuesday indicating they don’t support the measure in an advisory referendum.
As of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday with 26 of 26 City of DeKalb precincts reporting, 53.94%, or 1,970 voters, within the city voted against having backyard chickens within city limits. Those who were in favor of the advisory referendum made up 46.06% of the vote, or 1,682 votes.
“So the message of the people who took the time to vote appears to be they do not want to allow backyard chickens in the city of DeKalb,” DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said.
DeKalb Mayor-Elect Cohen Barnes said Wednesday “the people have spoken” on the matter. He said he hasn’t thought about whether he would personally entertain an ordinance being brought to the City Council anyway, but the bottom line is that voters voted the referendum down.
“I think we should support the will of the voters at this point,” Barnes said.
Nicklas said the proposal may rise again and there’s nothing preventing city council from considering a proposal anyway. However, in near term, the council has a clear idea of what residents are thinking about the proposal and there are other pressing issues to consider in the meantime, he said.
“And I think that’s going to be the end of the council level discussion for a while,” Nicklas said.
According to unofficial election results, residents in ten out of the 26 voting precincts in DeKalb were in favor of the proposal. The precincts with the “yes” option winning were DeKalb 1, 4, 5, 10, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 22, along with Afton 1.
The tally came after the DeKalb City Council voted, 8-0, in September 2020 to put the question of whether to allow backyard chickens within city limits on the April 2021 ballot. That followed a group of residents which supported such an ordinance who formed a social media group in February 2019.
The social media group Backyard Chickens – DeKalb, IL wrote in a comment Tuesday night that, since it was an advisory ballot and not binding, the group can still keep pushing aldermen to create the ordinance.
“Remember when several of our alderman said there just wasn’t enough interest to write a [backyard chickens] ordinance? Last night, 1,682 people voted in favor,” a group member wrote in a separate Wednesday post. “When was the last time the City Council needed 1,682 people to come to city hall for them to justify writing an ordinance?”
The referendum was an advisory one to allow the City of DeKalb to better assess public opinion on the issue and to see if the majority of DeKalb voters want to keep chickens in their backyard. If the advisory referendum were to pass, the council would have been able to move forward with crafting an ordinance, which will also require a vote.
Ward 4 race remains too close to call
In Ward 4, incumbent Greg Perkins leads challenger Matthew Keys by just four votes, so the race will not be called until outstanding mail-in votes are certified and final tallies are counted.
Perkins received 50.34% of the vote, or 296 votes, while Keys received 49.66%, or 292 votes.
Keys said the race was “closer than anticipated,” and said he’s waiting for the remaining mail-in ballots to come in.
“I think the most important take from this result is just how effective every person’s vote is, especially in local elections,” Keys said.
DeKalb Ward 2 race leader reaction
Barb Larson, who appears to be the next Ward 2 alderman according to unofficial results, said she was surprised to see how close the vote was on the chicken referendum.
She said she thought more people would be against it – and maybe that’s still the case, but the split was a lot closer to the center among the voting population.
“Whatever the vote had gone, everybody’s rights have to be taken into account,” Larson said. “If chickens had gotten in, there would have been definitely guidelines that say these are things that have to be maintained or your neighbor can put you out of the chicken business.”
Larson said she personally wouldn’t get a chicken on her property, since it’s a lot of work and she wouldn’t know what to do with the body when the chicken died.
“I’m glad that it’s really not something the council has to decide on, since the people have spoken,” Larson said.
Larson said she is looking forward to getting to work. She said she applauds Barnes for what he had to say about addressing issues within the city surrounding Hunter Properties and his goals to strive for social equity in the city.
“I am right there to support him in any way I can and the vote will be to protect the taxpayers,” Larson said. " ... We are taxed out.”
Doug Johnson, DeKalb County clerk and recorder, said 136 mail-in ballots were outstanding as of Tuesday. Ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted if they arrive by 14 days after the election. Results will be certified two weeks after Election Day.
Larson said she’s feeling good about her chances to win the race.
“I’m feeling pretty secure,” Larson said. “But I’ll be more secure in the next couple of weeks when they verify everything.”