The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

Survey indicates divide on chickens in Village

Due to a potential shift in longstanding policy, Shorewood residents may soon have the opportunity to keep backyard chickens. Under Shorewood Village Code § 19217, the keeping of chickens is currently prohibited. However, the results of a recent community survey indicated a clear divide on the matter, with roughly half of 522 respondents expressing potential interest (49.04%) and the other half remaining uninterested (49.62%). 

In response to these findings, Bart Griepentrog, Shorewood’s Planning & Development Director, has been tasked by the Community and Business Relations Committee to draft an ordinance modeled after those in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, both of which allow residents with a permit to keep chickens.

“Many other communities allow chickens, and so I personally think that there are ways to allow them with proper regulations,” Griepentrog said. “It’s just a matter of identifying what the problems might be, and how we can regulate and enforce those to not be actual problems.”

The specifics of the proposed ordinance are set to be revealed at the Committee’s next meeting on December 4. According to Eric Couto, Village Trustee, the first step in the ordinance drafting process was to gather insights from standing policies in neighboring communities. 

“We’ve had an initial meeting, where we basically went over the ordinances as they exist in other communities,” Couto said. “What other communities have, what they don’t have, and how they do it.”

After the ordinance draft is finalized in the months to come, the Village will embark on an evaluation phase to ensure that the ordinance effectively addresses all relevant concerns and complies with applicable regulations. Once complete, the Village will make a final decision on its adoption.

“The next step in the process will be looking at that draft ordinance, potentially amending it, and either passing or not passing it,” Couto said.

Another consideration the Village will take into account is potential concerns associated with keeping chickens. These can include noise, odor, and attraction of pests. However, Griepentrog believes that these concerns can be addressed through the ordinance and proper regulation.

“If we allow [chickens], we allow them in a place that’s easy to regulate and doesn’t cause problems for the neighbors,” Griepentrog said. “I think that we, as Shorewood, can find a way to do that.”

Many of these concerns were expressed by residents in the comment section of the community poll. Ann McCullough McKaig, Shorewood Village President, emphasizes that these may not align with the practical realities of responsible chicken ownership.

“[People] have concerns that, in practice, haven’t been substantiated,” McKaig said. “They’re not actually an issue when people do a good job of taking care of their chickens.”

Despite vocalization of these issues, Board members express confidence in the ability to overcome them.

“Within [the ordinance], there will be some type of mechanism to resolve any kind of conflicts between neighbors,” McKaig said. “I think those are the types of details that the Village Board will consider when the ordinance comes to us.”

McKaig, who first joined the Board in 2013, was hesitant about the idea in the past, citing a lack of community support. Since then, her stance on the matter has shifted.

“The first time it came up, I just couldn’t imagine it working,” McKaig said. “I’m definitely much more comfortable with it than I was in the past … I think this Board is much more willing to consider it.”

Above all, McKaig highlights the value of continuous learning and adaptation, and emphasizes her commitment to listening to all perspectives, staff and community member.

“I always say that I just keep listening until the very end,” McKaig said. “[Shorewood has] demonstrated that, when we try new things, if problems do come up, we address what the problems are, and so it’s not a reason not to move forward.”