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Beekeeping ordinance sent back to Planning Commission

 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council decided last Thursday evening to send the new beekeeping ordinance back to the City Planning Commission for more research and discussion, at the suggestion of City Manager Mike Womack. The Planning Commission had previously approved the new ordinance by a 5-4 vote.

The decision was made after the first reading of the new ordinance at the City Council meeting Thursday, September 7.

“The Planning Commission discussion went off track (in my opinion) and made a 5-4 recommendation to City Council to approve with some additional language. After discussing the matter with each individual PC member it sounded like a majority didn’t feel as though they had sufficient time to research and discuss the matter,” explained Womack. “So, I gave the City Council the recommendation of the PC but also made the suggestion to send it back to the PC for further research and discussion based upon the discussions that I had with PC members. This is obviously a complicated issue and I want the City to get it right and I don’t see any reason to rush to a decision.”

Womack said he received an email from one of the PC members asking for specific information regarding the resident who asked to be allowed to keep bees, Joe Frank. While he felt they were good questions if reviewing an applicant, the ordinance is a policy issue. So Womack sent an email to Planning Commission members explaining some of the things they should be thinking about regarding the beekeeping ordinance. “The Bee-Keeping Ordinance was brought to the PC’s review for policy reasons.  The question that PC members should be asking themselves is whether the PC is a body capable of reviewing an application to keep bees, whether the proposed ordinance gives the PC enough guidance with which to make future decisions regarding an individual being able to keep bees, whether there are any spelling mistakes, errors or omissions that you think the ordinance should have but that I missed and whether you have any problems with individual aspects of the ordinance, a good example would be whether you think 2 hives is too many on any property under 8,XXX square foot and instead you think that it should be only 1 hive etc. When the City makes policy/ordinances we absolutely should not be thinking about how it will affect any single individual but rather how it will affect everybody. A typical lot in the City is 66X132=8,712 square feet, If the PC wanted to limit bee-keeping it could recommend that the minimum lot size should be 9,000 square feet before being allowed to keep any bees. We also have parcels as small as 5,000 square feet (or smaller) in the City, does the PC want to say that there is a minimum size for the lot prior to allowing bees?”

City resident Joe Frank asked the city to consider allowing beekeeping in the city earlier this summer. He has kept honeybees as a hobby for several years. He had several hives on property he owned in Hesperia, and when he decided to sell the property, he re-homed all of the hives, except one, with other beekeepers. He had previously asked a city official if he could keep a hive on his property here, and was told he could. He moved the hive to his property, but was later told that he couldn’t have it under the current ordinance. That ordinance, Sec. 8-1 Domestic Animals and Fowls reads: “No person shall keep or house any animal or domestic fowl within the city, except dogs, cats, canaries or animals commonly classified as pets which are customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets, or permit any animal or fowl to enter business places where food is sold for human consumption, except for leader, guide, hearing and service dogs as required by MCL 750.502c.”

“Bees are animals and no animals shall be kept except for the ones listed or are commonly classified as pets, which bees are not,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.

Frank said he was happy with the draft ordinance the council was considering.

“The State of Michigan has guidelines for beekeeping and the proposal is in line with the State of Michigan Agriculture guidelines, which I think is a good way to go,” he said.

A few of the other cities that allow bees in West Michigan include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland.

 

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