The Montgomery Village Board has instructed village staff to work with a local couple and their neighbors to determine if an accommodation can be made under provisions of the Fair Housing Act to allow the couple to keep chickens in their backyard.
On May 13, two residents of the village’s Foxmoor subdivision on the village’s far west side told the board of their concerns over a couple on Shetland Lane keeping chickens at their home.
One of the neighbors, Chad Davis, told the board that he counted 18 chickens in a pen measuring approximately 10 feet by 10 feet in the backyard of the home. Also in the pen is a Rubbermaid structure that serves as a coop. He estimated the pen is about 7 feet from his lot line.
The village’s zoning code prohibits the keeping of chickens on all properties zoned for residential use, including Foxmoor subdivision.
However, Richard Young, the village’s community development director, told the board that the homeowners, Luke and Brittany Villotti, had provided him with a letter from the Veterans Administration indicating that they were keeping the chicken as service animals for Luke, who is a veteran.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, Brittany Villotti acknowledged that keeping chickens in the yard is “something different” but noted that they “put a smile” on her husband’s face.
“Our dog doesn’t do that,” Villotti said.
Villotti said their backyard is fenced and confirmed they are using a Rubbermaid shed to house the chickens. She invited board members to visit her home and yard so they could see that the chickens are being kept in clean and sanitary conditions.
“I apologize for the issues that have come up and all the time you’ve had to spend on this,” Villotti added.
Villotti said she believes her husband deserves to be able to keep the chickens and “to have support animals as prescribed through a therapist for the department of veterans.”
Board members, however, expressed reservations.
Citing online posts, board member Steve Jungermann charged that Villotti and her husband are currently keeping as many as 53 chickens and “running a business” on their property.
Board member Denny Lee acknowledged that some area communities, including Oswego, Batavia and Naperville, have established rules and passed ordinances in recent years permitting homeowners to keep a limited number of chickens in their backyards. Lee, however, said that the village is not obligated to follow the example of nearby communities. He said he believes that if people want to keep chickens at their homes they should live on a farm.
As for the Villottis, Lee charged that they were aware that the village’s ordinance prohibits the keeping of chickens but still placed them in the backyard without first contacting the village.
Village President Matt Brolley said the village is required under the federal Fair Housing Act to investigate the situation and to see if a reasonable accommodation can be made for the Villottis.
Brolley added that ultimately a homeowner’s enjoyment of his or her property should not adversely affect the neighbors’ enjoyment of their properties.