CHAMPAIGN — In a vote that is sure to be remembered by area chicken enthusiasts, city council members on Tuesday night gave their final approval to let residents keep hens in their backyards.
The practice has been disallowed by ordinance for decades. After supporters spent a couple years asking the city council to reverse the city rules, they finally did on Tuesday night by a 7-1 vote.
Effective Dec. 17, residents will be allowed to obtain a permit to keep two to six hens at their homes. The same practice has always been allowed in Urbana with very little regulation.
City officials had already informally supported the action before Tuesday night and have spent the past weeks mulling over the specific rules. The vote was more of a formality.
Council member Vic McIntosh nonetheless remained the lone holdout — he had previously voted no during a study session, too. He said he still has concerns about things like odors and animal control issues “when the fox is in the hen house at 2 a.m.,” he said.
“I just don’t think it’s a good way for the city to go,” McIntosh said. “This is not a rural area.”
In other business, the city council voted 8-0 to establish as many as two non-voting “youth member” positions on the city’s human relations commission for people ages 15 through 17. Human relations commissioners said earlier this year that the younger perspective will be valuable to the commission and the community.
City council members also act as township commissioners for the City of Champaign Township. They met earlier in the night to approve the township’s tax levy, which accounts only for a very small portion of a homeowner's overall property tax bill.
Taxpayers next year are expected to pay the same rate they paid this year: about 4 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. That will result in roughly 1 percent less tax revenue for the township after a drop in taxable property values throughout the township.
Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom said that will not be an issue. He said that, in the past year, the office has been able to save money by connecting to Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband. He also said township clients will have more expenses covered by the Affordable Care Act, which will lower the burden on township tax dollars.