Our Views: Thumbs up/down for Monday, Jan. 27

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Thumbs up to  allowing chickens in Walworth County. The city of Whitewater approved an ordinance allowing chickens in 2012. So it might seem odd that chickens aren’t allowed on residential properties in unincorporated parts of the county. Dale Wheelock, a poultry farmer and Delavan resident, has been hearing complaints that people are violating zoning rules that apply to all towns except Bloomfield. Only rural properties zoned for agriculture are allowed to keep chickens. Wheelock has helped draft and propose an ordinance that would allow up to six chickens, but no roosters. They would have to live in moveable coops no larger than 100 square feet. Coops must be at least 10 feet from side and rear property lines and 20 feet from neighboring homes. The county board could vote on the proposal Feb. 11. This would be a progressive move. Residents shouldn’t fear that coops will spring up in half the county’s rural backyards. Instead, the ordinance will allow interested people to raise chickens for their own supplies of eggs and without violating zoning rules. These chickens likely won’t be any messier and likely less noisy than the canines that occupy backyard doghouses.

Thumbs down to not monitoring kids using apps on smartphones. As reporter Frank Schultz chronicled in Wednesday’s Gazette, Kik is a free smart phone messaging application that poses risks to kids. Sure, it can be used responsibly. But Kik also allows users to contact strangers, and child predators use this app to troll for victims. Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald reports Kik is the top policing problem with social media involving teens as users ask others to trade conversation, photos and sexually elicit messages. This worldwide concern has hit home in Rock County. Nicholas W. Ackerman, a 20-year-old Janesville man, is charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. Police say the two met after he corresponded with the Janesville teen through Kik. Parents might be thinking safety when they give their children smart phones so families can stay in constant contact. The lure of Kik and some other apps, however, might cause more phone problems than benefits.

Thumbs up to the Modern Widows Club. Janesville’s Annette Little was left with three school-age children eight years ago when her husband died. Amid her mourning, she felt like a social outcast, as if she suddenly didn’t belong anywhere. Lots of widows and widowers might relate. When a spouse dies, relationships with couples that defined their lives and social networks can fade. Little hopes to help widows find places to grow, evolve and thrive with new lives in the Modern Widows Club Janesville Chapter. Little, who’s in her 50s, wants the club to be a safe, comforting place where widows can explore what comes next. “I wanted a place where people can talk and discuss with someone who gets it, someone who’s been there, someone who has had the struggles and someone who has gone through healing and growing after loss,” she told Gazette reporter Shelly Birkelo. The local chapter, one of 10 nationwide, will meet the second Thursday evening of each month. Those interested should email Annette@modernwidowsclub.com.

Thumbs up to the improving real estate market. Observers say Rock County’s real estate market is reaching normalcy. Agents sold more than 1,800 existing homes last year, the most since 2007. Prices also are rising. The average sale price was $119,000, highest since 2009. No, that doesn’t match the average prices of between $136,000 and $138,000 in 2006 and 2007. Keep in mind, however, that those inflated prices came before the housing bubble burst. When it did, it threw the United States into economic crisis and to the brink of another depression. In light of that, it’s remarkable how far this county’s housing market has come. The county clerk of court’s office says foreclosure filings in 2013 were 44 percent lower than in 2012. With fewer distressed properties available for sale, sellers might expect average prices to keep rising.

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