EAST PEORIA — In the end, only one commissioner stood with the chickens.
"I still think it is the right thing to do in principle to allow people who are responsible to (raise chickens)," Commissioner Tim Jeffers said. "We're a small town. I thought we could do it. I thought we could make it work, but we'll move on."
But, with barely a nugget of support, the East Peoria City Council on Tuesday rejected an ordinance that would have allowed residents to raise up to five chickens on their property. The 4 to 1 vote to uphold the ban on chickens in the city limits came two weeks after the council thought it had put the lingering issue to rest. It announced earlier this month that the ordinance lacked majority support on the council and that there would be no need for a public vote.
"It's dead for now," Mayor Dave Mingus said at that meeting. "It's not an issue."
Then the council changed its mind and called for a vote.
"The Zoning Board passed a recommendation and held a hearing, so I think (the issue) deserves its day," said Commissioner Gary Densberger, who joined Mingus and commissioners Dan Decker and John Kahl in voting against the ordinance. "I believe others agree with that point of view. That's why we'll vote on it today."
The proposed ordinance limited the number of chickens to five, disallowed roosters and required well-maintained chicken coops, setbacks from property lines and a $150 registration fee.
Tuesday's vote followed a mini debate on the topic that has been kicking around for years. Chicken owners Robert Brinker and Neil Perrin both rose in support of the ordinance.
"These are pets for us, not livestock. There's nothing agricultural about it," Brinker told the council. "I hope it can make it."
Said Perrin: "(Raising chickens) can be done responsibly in the backyard."
Five residents spoke in opposition to the chicken ordinance.
"I don't think chickens are suitable in the city," said resident Rick Swan.
Seated in the front row, Brinker and his wife, Shannon, stood up and walked out when Commissioner Decker announced he would oppose the chicken ordinance. Decker once leaned toward approving the ordinance, but firmed up his opposition after talking to as many as 100 to 200 residents on the topic.
"I do believe a majority of the people of East Peoria stand in opposition to chickens," he said.
Resident Bob Sinks, who raised the question of keeping chickens in the city more than a year ago, vowed to keep up the chicken fight.
"I'm retired, so I've got between now and the time they shove me in the crematory," Sinks told the council. "So hang on, it's going to be a hell of a ride."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.