CAMPTON HILLS – At Julie Domaracki’s expansive 2.76 acres in Campton Hills, the horses are in the pasture while her chickens are clucking and pecking.
Southern Belle, the palomino, is running around while the brown quarter pony, Autumn, is on her back, rolling in the grass, legs kicking up.
Identical-looking brown chickens named Cheryl and Carol came up to the house to see who was new, while the black and white Karen and the gray Betty were in the barn.
A white hen, Susan, known as an Easter Egger, was snuggled up in Domaracki’s arms.
She’s an Easter Egger because she lays blue eggs.
Domaracki said she and others who live in the Equestrian Estates subdivision are concerned that the village’s work to update its zoning will take away their rights to have horses and chickens on less than four acres, requiring special use permits for horses and licenses for the chickens.
“We all moved out to Campton Hills to have property and have these animals,” Domaracki said. “I have two horses, five chickens and two dogs.”
As a nurse working a stressful job, Domaracki said she gets peace and joy from her animals when she comes home – and she wants to preserve that.
Village President Michael Tyrrell said all this concern is energy wasted because of misinformation spread on social media.
“It’s much ado about nothing,” Tyrrell said. “They’re not paying attention. Not everyone lives on two or three acres. We have people with 6/10th of an acre and you can’t have two horses. It doesn’t work. They’re picking up bits and pieces of information and blowing it up.”
Campton Hills incorporated in 2007 and adopted Kane County’s zoning ordinance as its own.
Tyrrell said the village used an urban planner and a steering committee that has been working to update that zoning ordinance since 2013.
Now the recommendations have been up for discussion at meetings – not for action, he said.
At the last meeting, Tyrrell told residents of Domaracki’s subdivision that the zoning changes being discussed would not affect them at all.
“We’re not restricting horses to four acres or licenses for horses,” Tyrrell said.
One issue with people who have too many animals and not enough space is piles of horse manure in a front yard for an extended period of time, Tyrrell said.
It will affect people with smaller lots with too many animals and where they can’t maintain their property or their animals, based on neighbor complaints, Tyrrell said.
And anyway, it’s a continuing discussion for a zoning update that is “in process,” Tyrrell said
But Domaracki points to a draft zoning ordinance that identifies R-2 zoning – her subdivision – and the agenda for a Sept. 6 special meeting, which listed that and R-3 zoning as requiring special use permits in order to keep horses.
The agenda also lists other communities’ rules regarding horses, chickens and livestock, as researched by village staff. Communities that were considered to have similar semi-rural and rural characteristics that were contacted were: Homer Glen, Montgomery, Elburn, Barrington, Wayne, South Barrington, Inverness, Hampshire and Sleepy Hollow.
Homer Glen requires a special use for horses and Wayne allows two horses or other livestock on two acres, according to the agenda.
It lists Montgomery, Elburn, Barrington, South Barrington, Inverness, Hampshire and Sleepy Hollow as not permitting horses at all, according to the agenda.
The same agenda also lists a draft zoning code with licensing chickens in residential areas, but it was not included in the discussion that night, Tyrrell said.
The village wanted to know what the other communities learned with their zoning rules, he said.
“We’re going to create a set of standards that you want to make sure you are not pulling (them) out of thin air,” Tyrrell said.
The agenda items were listed not only because of the village’s efforts at transparency, he said, but as part of its ongoing discussion of zoning. The village has had several meetings and sent out FAQs to residents about it.
“The agenda items are proposals for discussion, not action,” Tyrrell said. “There is nothing voted on. … People unfortunately believe social media before they investigate the facts on their own. And there’s always a small minority that turn around and ignore the facts.”
But for Domaracki the issue is trust: She said she doesn’t trust the village or Tyrrell. And seeing the agenda that called for a special permit for horses in her zoning area is what sparked her concern.
She was unswayed that the agenda listed those items for discussion only, not action.
“That’s where we got concerned – that he was including our sized lots,” Domaracki said.
Her neighbor Michael Warick, who also has horses and chickens, said trust is also a factor in his perspective because of “how the agenda changes so dramatically.”
“We’re talking about zoning and regulations, and it changes meeting to meeting to meeting to be more stringent for no reason whatsoever,” Warick said.
Warick said he would also challenge the idea that all these issues are merely up for discussion and not action.
“The consultant did all of that for six years. What are you (Tyrrell) doing above and beyond that to make it more stringent?” Warrick said. “They’re throwing away the consultant’s recommendations. … There is no reason why they’re doing this and they change on a dime.”
Urban planning consultants Camiros Ltd. created a 137-page zoning ordinance draft for Campton Hills, released August 2019, and presented at a public hearing April 25 this year, records show.
The Camiros’ zoning draft does not recommend special uses for horses or licenses for chickens, according to pages 75 and 72.
“They were recommending all kinds of urban features,” Tyrrell said of urban planning consultant Camiros. “We battled with them to take out things that were really urban elements – car dealerships, airports, multi-level parking garages. … They were a consultant and recommending body that helped us through.”
Among the features initially overlooked by Camiros were horses, and the steering committee and staff continued to work on those items, Tyrrell said.
“It is an evolution,” Tyrrell said of the zoning process.