BARTLETT, Ill. (CBS) — The CBS 2 Morning Insiders this week visited the Bartlett Village Hall – where a months-long dispute has come to a close in less than five minutes.
At issue is a squirrel box we told you about last week – home to a mother squirrel and her three babies. The woman whose backyard housed the squirrel box was being fined a hefty sum for it, but the fines will stop under an agreement reached Wednesday.
The saga of the squirrel may be over, but the baby squirrels weren’t the only ones peeking in on the drama.
“People I don’t even know just showed up today,” said Debbie Szenda, landlord to the fuzzy family.
A CBS 2’s Lauren Victory reported, wildlife activists flanked Szenda’s Bartlett home on Wednesday, and people from the East Coast to the West backed her up after CBS 2’s story about Szenda’s dilemma.
State law says Szenda can’t take the squirrel box in her backyard down because it has a nest inside. But neighbor Jeff Larson reported the squirrel home to Bartlett in the spring.
“I don’t really have a gripe with the squirrels at all till they start digging up by lawn; start digging up our pots,” Larson said. “She chooses to feed and house the squirrels, which is drawing them – kind of unnaturally, I would add.”
Code enforcement officers agreed, leading to a show of support as Szenda arrived to plead her case and avoid tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
The hearing almost didn’t happen. Szenda said her lawyer received an 11th-hour offer from Bartlett officials.
“They wouldn’t have fined me. I wouldn’t have had to come to anymore hearings. But they wanted me to take down the squirrel box in 60 days. They said the babies should be gone by then, and I said no,” Szenda said, “because I’ve been fighting for this for six months, and a squirrel box is no different than a birdhouse.”
CBS 2 spotted lots of birdhouses right on Szenda’s street. Perhaps the birdhouse argument helped at the hearing.
A decision on Mama Squirrel’s fate came in a matter of minutes – no more food from Szenda.
“As long as I comply, I get fined nothing, and my squirrel box with the mom and babies can stay in my yard,” she said.
And that isn’t bad news for people who complained.
“I’m at peace with the decision,” Larson said, “and I don’t think we’re going to be best of friends, but I hope we can be neighbors where we can live and let live going forward,” Larson said.
“That’s all I want,” Szenda said. “I just want peace.”
Bartlett had been fining Szenda $750 a day since April. That added up to more than $88,000.
The ruling Wednesday cleared those penalties.