Committee recap, part one: Parking issues, backyard chickens

By Gary Scott on August 26, 2015 at 8:31am

Not even 24 hours after a Monday night City Council meeting, Jacksonville aldermen were back at it yesterday morning.

A Planning and Public Works Committee meeting focused on three major topics- downtown parking, permitting golf carts to ride on streets, and chickens.

The parking issue was last discussed in committee at the end of January. In that meeting, like yesterday, the enforcement of an existing two-hour limit was suggested.

Alderman Don Cook, Jacksonville Main Street executive director Judy Tighe and Lincoln Land Community College Jacksonville president Keri Mason all agreed the city needs to have the Jacksonville Police Department enforce the current two-hour ordinance.

Mason added the school has put out the message that students should park in a lot north of the square.

Jim Cook, who owns rental property next to LLCC, urged alderman to not only have 2-hour parking spaces, but also one-hour and half-hour spots.

“We have to go back to [Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens] and [ask] how are we going to enforce this? Right now we do not have signage up, so the chief can’t enforce it until we get the signage up, so the Main Street design committee has to finish up the signage for the two-hour parking, and then we’ll see about enforcing it,” says committee chairman Bill Scott.

He also suggested yesterday creating a personal parking lot space in the city’s municipal lots and charging motorists five dollars a month to make that their spot.

“Somebody parked in your parking spot, you could call the police, have them come and ticket that person for parking in your spot because it will say ‘reserved.’ That is an idea that we’re throwing around,” he says.

“It might be five [parking spots] on the north side, five on the south side, there might be some across from City Hall here, there’s a parking lot that goes all the way up by the post office. If two students wanted to go together and reserve a parking spot on the north side, we could do that in the municipal lot. We may have a dozen, maybe 20 on the north side,” Scott adds.

Drivers can keep their cars parked downtown overnight thanks to a rules change approved last August.

A number of people, including residents, an Illinois College professor, a Passavant Hospital nurse and an official from Buchheit’s, all urged the city to reconsider its current 200-foot distance restriction for chickens.

Alderman Steve Warmowski proposed an ordinance that would allow four hens and no roosters and would be for the backyards of single-family residences. There would be a 20-foot distance restriction from a neighbor’s house.

Buccheit spokesperson Jill Cobb tries to dispel the myth that chickens can only be kept in rural areas.

“That’s a huge myth. If you can on and Google ‘urban chickens’, you’ll find there are some cities where they’re raising chickens on rooftops, rooftops of high-rises. It’s something that’s nationwide, it’s not just a strictly agricultural small-town thing,” she says.

“It’s more about people want to know where their food’s coming from, people want to eat healthier, people enjoy chickens as pets, they use the manure for their gardens, they enjoy just watching them. It’s kind of relaxing to watch your flock of chickens,” continues Cobb.

Cobb adds that Buchheit is a big supporter of 4H, which she says could also benefit from urban chickens

Resident Eren White Williams, one of the residents in attendance, first before City Council earlier this year to urge aldermen to reconsider a decision they had made several months prior to not alter the city ordinance.

The issue will be reviewed further at a future meeting.

So as not to bury the golf cart topic under two other major discussions, we’ll talk more about that in our next news cycle, which begins this afternoon here on WLDS/WEAI.

Other topics during yesterday’s meeting included putting no-parking signs on North Westgate west of Passavant Hospital, and one on the east side of Grand Avenue between Mound and Lafayette. The Jacksonville Shriner’s Club has requested to be added to the city’s “Welcome” signage.