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Backyard chickens won’t fly in O’Fallon

533213313As promised, Patrick Stovall returned before the O’Fallon City Council to petition for backyard chickens – this time bringing a flock of supporters with him.

Stovall had appeared multiple times before the council in 2014 in support of an ordinance that would have made it legal for residents to keep chicken hens in properly constructed coops in their backyards. After deliberating on the matter for several work sessions and regular meetings, the council had voted the ordinance down on second reading in November of 2014.

At a meeting on Jan. 22, Stovall returned to speak and, while still jovial, he left out some of the fun and games his previous comments to the council had contained.

“These are non-intrusive animals, this is not a big deal. It is being made much to do about nothing,” Stovall told the council.

The O’Fallon resident gave an enthusiastic speech during public comments, once more citing the benefits of keeping chickens on residential property. He was followed by several other citizens pleading the same cause. Juli and Luther Viel, who own chickens and who had received a citation for their birds prior to the Jan. 22 meeting, also spoke

“I’m sorry for violating the rules,” Juli told the council. “I take that seriously.”

But her husband  said he thinks chickens should be regulated, and perhaps place a tax or charge on people who keep them. He said a code enforcement official from the city could check to see if the chickens were being kept in a clean, well-maintained coop, and if they were not the owners would be fined.

Over the holiday season, Stovall had started a push for a petition to place an item on the April 7 ballot that would create an ordinance allowing for backyard poultry. However, Stovall called off the drive due to the timing and personal commitments. If successful, the petition may have forced a special election for O’Fallon, which would have cost the city a significant amount of money, officials have said.

After the public comments and during his ward report, Councilmember Jeff Schwentker (Ward 4) complimented Stovall for his comments and the professional way he interacts with the council. He also reminded the gathered citizens that the current council did not actively outlaw chickens.

“This council did not change the law to ban chickens; chickens were not allowed,” Schwentker said. “This council voted not to change it (the ordinance).

“I voted the way my constituents asked; I believe everybody up here voted the way their constituents wanted them to vote, so it’s not personal. We represent the people that elected us into office.”

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