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After six months of discussion, the Monticello City Council on Monday unanimously approved an amended animal ordinance that limits the kind and number of animals allowed within city limits. Going into effect Jan. 1, it expands a ban on livestock to horses and most ‘beaked’ animals except chickens (hens only). Residents are allowed six hens as long as the animal enclosure is 150 feet from neighbors’ homes and 20 or more feet from the nearest lot line.
The issue is likely not over. Cody Sanantonio, the owner of the Metamorphosis Montessori School in Monticello which houses a miniature horse, roosters and about a dozen chickens, has indicated she will test the new law in court. She declined to comment after Monday’s meeting.
“It’s a little closer to being resolved, but if there is a lawsuit, it could go on for years,” said Monticello Mayor Chris Corrie. “But both sides think they are correct.”
The issue came up in May when neighbors of the Montessori school complained about the smell produced by a pair of sheep Sanantonio used in her curriculum. When an exemption for the sheep was not granted, she found a home for the sheep and purchased a miniature horse, which was allowed under the former ordinance.
Roger Simpson, the local attorney representing the private school, said case law conflicts with the new law’s non-conforming use exemption, which makes allowances for a 75-foot setback between chicken coops and surrounding homes for those who already have the animals.
Simpson feels the law should also allow non-conforming uses for other animals that were allowed under the previous ordinance, including roosters and horses.
“There’s considerable case law that says that non-conforming uses – uses that were once legal – can continue until such case they are abandoned by the owner, destroyed by the owner or changed in such a way they are no longer protected,” said Simpson, who asked the council to “at least delay passage of this to see if my arguments have any weight.”
City attorneys dismissed his claims.
“It’s a distinct power of municipalities to control animals,” said Dereke Price of Diamond, Bush, DiCianni and Krafthefer of Naperville, adding that his research shows that right even precedes zoning rights.
“We cited four different sources of that power (to control animals) in the ordinance, and it all precedes zoning. Before the time of Abraham Lincoln, animals running amok in town was a problem,” added Price.
In the public portion of the meeting, Stacy Cribbs said she realized “you can’t please everyone,” but was “disappointed” only one council member visited the school before voting Monday.
“You didn’t look at the facts; you were not able to make an informed decision,” said Cribbs.
On the other side of the issue, neighbor Nancy Brazas urged the council to vote on the issue “so we can be done with it. It’s gone on long enough.” She said the dispute had caused problems between neighbors and fellow citizens, and that it was time to “rip the Band-Aid off.”
The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013. Residents who currently have animals that are allowed have until January of 2014 to comply. Those who have chickens can apply for a non-conforming animal certificate only for the 150-foot setback for chickens, but if allowed would still need to limit the number to 6 hens and meet the 20-foot setback between enclosures and neighbor lot lines.
Water tower waiver
Aldermen also approved an amendment with Foth Engineering of Champaign concerning the new water tower completed earlier this year. The height of the 500,000 gallon tower came up short, which could have reduced its capacity by about 27,000 gallons.
Superintendent of City Services Floyd Allsop said city crews installed a check valve system that will allow the tower to store the full 500,000 gallons. For that reason, a new overflow pipe is not needed at the tower.
For fixing the problem, Foth is agreeing to refund $30,000 to the city, in exchange for the city releasing the engineer from liability from problems that would arise from the height of the tower.
The issue had been tabled last month, with the main change being Foth is released from liability for the tower height issue only.
The annual property tax levy for 2012 – payable in 2013 – was also approved by aldermen. The total levy being asked for is $740,775, slightly below the $748,139 received this year.
Allsop said the anticipated drop in property tax revenue is due to a likely 1 percent drop in land values in the city. He felt it would result in a similar tax rate as this year, which was 70 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation.
Those in the Appletree subdivision pay an extra 50 cents in order to pay off a $405,000 project in 2000 that extended sewer service across the river to those homes.
Allsop said the project should be paid off within three years, and at that time the special 50 cent levy will expire.
Carolyn Wallenberg was officially sworn in as the city's latest police officer.
The Yorkville native earned her criminal justice degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2007, and just completed training at the Police Training Institute at the U of I-Urbana/Champaign. While there she earned the top scholastic grade-point average in her PTI class of 40 other officers and received the training academy Warren Award to recognize her accomplishments.
The city voted to accept a small plot of land from Monical's Pizza. It is mostly flood pain property south of the building, which the city can use for flood prevention efforts in the future.
"We've been looking to do things with that bottom land for years now, so this will help," said Corrie.
Aldermen heard a presentation from Jerod McMorris of GoodEnergy of Peoria, a firm being considered to bring electrical aggregation to local citizens.
GoodEnergy is a consultant that pools the residents of multiple cities and negotiates for lower energy rates. The latest aggregation will result in an average $300 a year in savings for homeowners in the 50 towns that approved the move on the November ballot.
To offer aggregation to local citizens, the city council would need to decide by Jan. 22 to place the referendum on the April 9 ballot.