Does the town have the right to shut me down?

donofpawMay 20, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I am an urban beekeeper and a gardener. My neighbor has cut down his bushes and can now see into my yard and see my hives. I got a letter from the city saying I am in violation of section 2.1 of the city ordiance and subject to a 300 dollar a day fine. The ordinace in question is a definition of agriculture and seems to encomapase everything you could possibly grow in your yard. It seems that if I am in violation of this then 50% percent of the city is in violation as most people have less than 5 acres and every other person either grows flowers, vegetables, fruits, or grapes. I have played phone tag with one women who says I am in violation, I plan to meet with the head of zoning to discuss this further... what are your thoughts.

Agriculture - the use of land, buildings or structures for agriculture and farming including floriculture, horticulture and viticulture; farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil; dairying; the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural, floricultural or horticultural commodities; the raising of livestock, the keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle and other domesticated animals used for food purposes, bees, fur-bearing animals; and any practices, included any forestry or lumbering operations performed by a farmer, who is hereby defined as one engaged in agriculture or farming as herein defined, or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparations for market, delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market, and the uses customarily accessory to the foregoing. (See Section 5.2 - a permitted use in all districts on parcels of five acres or more).

What would you do?

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esh_ga

Well, just for reference, how many hives do you have? Having one or one hundred ... could make a difference. Also, are they for personal use? That could also make a difference.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 5:25PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Your city does not have a specific ordinance controlling the keeping of bee hives?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 5:31PM
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Circus Peanut

"[...]as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparations for market, delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market, and the uses customarily accessory to the foregoing."

To me, this means specifically commercial use is banned. Is the honey you produce for private use only?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 5:40PM
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althea_gw

Here one needs to obtain permission from near neighbors before setting up bee hives. I think the primary concern is allergic reaction to bee stings.

We can keep small livestock, goats, sheep, and so on with permission. I don't think hens require a permit. Roosters are banned.

If your city doesn't allow "agriculture", lobby your councilperson to change the code.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 6:23PM
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jmc01

Over the last 2-3 yrs, my community debated residential beekeeping for personal use. A decision was finally reached a few months ago to allow it and an ordinance specific to only beekeeping was passed.

As I read your second paragraph, I'd say you are out of luck - bees are specifically identified.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 6:48PM
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littleonefb

Got to agree with jmc01. bees are specified and saying that, essentially, half the town is doing it, is probably not going to go over well as an excuse or a reason to allow you to continue with was you are doing.

According to what you posted, you are violating a written city ordinance, Unless that ordinance is amended you are, no doubt out of luck..

Fran

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 7:33PM
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lily316(z5PA)

I am a beekeeper too for 25 years , and I have no clue if there is anything in our town's ordinance. I only have one hive and my 1/2 acre is a corner lot with two streets and an alley behind. I have one neighbor and they don't care. My hive is far away from them. You can see my hive from the sidewalk ,but no one complained. I never checked the ordinance because initially we captured a swarm which came to a barrel on my porch. I needed to get them into a hive, not deal with bureaucracy. Of course we don't sell our honey..we give it away or use it.

IMO we should be doing everything possible to encourage beekeeping. I love my bees, and all my friends in town always tell me my bees are visiting their flowers.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 2:30AM
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tobr24u(z6 RI)

Well, there is always the indoor keeping of the birds and the bees...

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 6:36AM
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jodik_gw

There's a marked difference in the flavor and strength of natural honey as opposed to store bought, processed, sugar added honeys... that much I can say. We always buy from the same local source, and though we are very rural, have simply not got into the keeping of bees. It's highly interesting, though.

Local bees come to visit our mixed borders and rose demo beds all the time... we encourage bees, hummingbirds, etc...

Were it me, I'd probably ask if there were some way I could get a permit to keep my hives... or I'd plan on moving them to the property of someone I knew that was a bit more rural.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 6:39AM
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pnbrown

Sounds like the thing to do is to see if you can educate the neighbor regarding the value and inoffensiveness of honeybees, since if his complaint goes away the town will stop bothering you.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 7:26AM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

Since you've been issued a citation, soothing a neighbor won't rectify the violation.

There are city ordinances for a reason (some bad) and pleading ignorant is still a violation.

Meeting with city leaders and explaining the benefits of beekeeping along with the non aggressive behavior of honey bees may help you get the ordinance changed.

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating 80% of everything we eat.
Honeybees are non-aggressive.
Honey never spoils.
Honeybees want one thing out of life: Work!
Honeybees are excellent role models: Teamwork that gets things done!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 7:42AM
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momj47(7A)

Good luck.

Agriculture - the use of land, buildings or structures for agriculture and farming including floriculture, horticulture and viticulture; farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil; dairying; the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural, floricultural or horticultural commodities

Looks like you can't plant anything around your home, you might want to point out to that zoning official that everyone in your town is probably out of compliance if they have tilled their soil to plant flowers, and especially those vegetable gardens. The fact that someone is growing their own flowers or veggies or fruits means they are producing a commodity - because it satisfies a want or need - don't share it with the neighbors.

It might be time for the town managers to take a look at that ordinance. Maybe you need some publicity - in the newspaper or local TV station - gently pointing out how overdone this ordinance is, and gathering other residents to petition the powers that be to change this ordinance.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 8:27AM
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ohiomom

You gave us little info re where you live ... but one thought I had if you live in an urban/semi-urban area with 'community gardens', they probly' would welcome a hive or two and you could still harvest your honey.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 8:53AM
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lily316(z5PA)

Have a seasoned beekeeper from your ag dept. come and speak to council on your behalf. I'd come and show a video of me hanging my wash out on the clothesline right beside the hive. I'm about 6 inches from the hive, and they fly around me. People NEED to be educated. Bees are mild little creatures who only sting when you are aggressive to them.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:51AM
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jodik_gw

Part of the problem is... and here we are again... the "ick" factor, if you will... "eww, a bug!"... ignorance of the benefits of having bees... and the ignorant instinct that all bees are "killer bees" that hunt us down to sting us to death!

I'm around bees all day while working in the gardens, and I've never been stung. Not once, in 7 years. I've seen some creepy looking spiders and snakes, but never have I been bothered by bees. They work around me as I move through the beds, weeding, mulching, digging, etc... even the mud wasps and wood or borer bees, or whatever the proper names for them are, don't bother me while I'm working. I leave them alone, and they leave me alone. I'm sure they're all much more afraid of me than I am of them.

I will say one thing... it's always best to try to stay within the good graces of your political and legal county hierarchy. Once you anger them, they rarely forget... and any future permits or anything you may need might suddenly be "difficult" to obtain. Been there, done that... don't want to revisit it. Let's just say that we won a case in which there had been no previous regulation on the books, and the county did not take kindly to the loss on their part. We were harassed on and off for years.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 3:22PM
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