City council to discuss regulating bees Tuesday
By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter
Whiteville could place new rules on apiaries and beekeeping, if a code amendment requested by city staff is approved Tuesday.
Members of the Columbus County Beekeepers Association have been working with Whiteville to gain “Bee City” status, recognizing efforts to encourage the busy little pollinators.
The city planning department has asked the council to approve an ordinance recommended by the planning board to limit locations where beehives could be maintained.
Like several members of the Beekeepers Association, Marcus Wendell Hill was taken by surprise when the proposal was announced last week.
“The document draft is so restrictive it just ridiculous,” he posted as part of a call to arms on social media.
“From how I read it, there will not be any there that is capable of compliance…I thought they were in favor of bees.”
In his brief to the council, City Planner Robert Lewis notes that “Many municipalities across the state regulate such activities through zoning. Regulation of beekeeping within incorporated areas is important to preserve harmony for humans and animals.”
The proposal notes that the ordinance would give the city authority to issue citations for beekeepers who violated the regulation.
“Staff recommends that the city Council adopt the proposed ordinance because it is considered reasonable and in the public interest at this time.”
The amendment request does not note any complaints by the public about bee stings or problems with colonies already located within the city.
Beekeepers would be required to have approval from the city before establishing a bee colony or moving a hive.
The ordinance would require beekeepers to obtain written permission from all adjoining property owners before establishing the bee colony.
The written consent would require the beekeeper to give his or her name and address, as well as those of adjoining neighbors, the number of proposed colonies, date the consent was given, and signatures of all parties involved. The city would have authority to inspect colonies and hives for compliance.
Under the new rules beekeepers would only be allowed up to five hives within the areas zoned by the city, and all hives would be required to maintain a minimum 75-foot buffer from property lines. Hives must be kept at ground level under the proposed ordinance.
Hives placed on property owned by someone other than the beekeeper could be removed by the property owner “if removal is necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
All hives within the city would need to be brought into compliance within 60 days of the ordinance being approved.
The proposal makes no mention of charging an application fee for an apiary in the city.
The Beekeepers Association has been working with property owners across the city – including the city itself – to establish bee-friendly plant beds to improve pollination of other beneficial plant species in the city.
The amendment proposal notes that no one spoke for or against the ordinance at the January planning meeting.
Tuesday’s public hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers.