Terry Lambert calls the whole thing a “silly” dispute among neighbors, but Joliet is about to adopt a new law restricting feeding of wild animals and waterfowl because of what’s been happening at Autumn Lakes.
Lambert, a businessman who has lived there since 1991, admits he started putting out more food for the birds and animals a few years ago in defiance of what he considered to be an intrusive homeowners’ association.
“Stepped it up a little bit” is how he put it.
But Lambert denies he’s caused the kinds of problems described at recent meetings in City Hall, where Autumn Lakes residents have complained of unusual amounts of geese feces in their yards and inordinate numbers of skunks in the neighborhood.
“When I moved here, there were geese. There will be geese here when I’m dead,” Lambert said.
Autumn Lakes is built around a retention pond.
It’s a picturesque neighborhood with backyards of more than 30 homes sloping down to the pond, which is lined by a gravel shore. Several boats sit on the gravel.
On Thursday afternoon, there was no sign of geese, ducks or other wildlife.
Robert Poyner was walking his dog in the park and said he had not heard about the animal complaints at Autumn Lakes.
Poyner lives a few blocks away, so he doesn’t live on the lake – or near Lambert. But he said he’s not surprised people are seeing lots of animals because he sees them by his house, too.
“Last summer, we had our first possum,” Poyner said. “We have rabbits, squirrels. We have hawks. We have deer. We’ve had coyotes.”
Poyner grew up in Plainfield but said he would visit friends who lived in the area, which is off Theodore Street near Essington Road, when he was a teenager. It mostly was farm fields then. And, Poyner said he thinks it’s easier to spot wild animals today than it was then because so much land has been developed.
“We’ve taken up their home,” he said.
But several Autumn Lakes residents contend that the numbers of geese, skunks raccoons and other unwelcome wildlife have been aggravated by one resident’s excessive feedings.
They never identified the resident by name, although inquiries in the neighborhood led to Lambert’s house, where he acknowledged he’s the guy people have been complaining about.
Lambert said he’s scaled back to comply with the limits the city is setting in the new ordinance.
“We’re feeding the birds,” he said. “We’re feeding the squirrels above ground like you’re allowed to do.”
The City Council Land Use and Legislative Committee on Tuesday recommended approval of an ordinance that declares it “a nuisance to feed any wild animal or waterfowl on private or public property in a manner that creates an unclean, unsafe or unsanitary condition.”
Violators can be fined $500.
Autumn Lakes resident Stephanie Feehan spoke at Tuesday’s meeting of the land use committee, which has recommended approval of the new ordinance.
Feehan said she moved to Autumn Lakes about four years ago “liking the geese.” But the numbers of geese became unbearable, she said.
“It’s not even the noise,” Feehan told the committee. “That doesn’t bother me. It’s the feces.”
Council member Don “Duck” Dickinson, a member of the committee, recommended approving the new ordinance, saying something had to be done.
Dickinson later said he went to the subdivision in the spring, when the issue surfaced, and visited a friend who lives there.
“There was goose [feces] everywhere,” Dickinson said. “We’ve had several neighbors call us on it.”
Several residents also attended a meeting in June, when the committee approved an original version of the ordinance that later was changed, out of concern it would prohibit a child from giving a piece of bread to a duck.
The version going to City Council on Tuesday removes several sentences from the original, leaving in permission to feed “song birds, using a well-maintained bird feeder.”