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There's a buzz about bees in Holladay

Published May 23, 2014 8:33 am

Proposed ordinance • City Council discusses options for suburban beekeepers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dave Richards loves his neighbors, but dislikes their bees.  

Richards, a Holladay resident for more than 20 years, was opening his pool for the summer this week when he discovered a mass of 30 dead bees on his gray cover. He built his pool about four years ago, but his concern began two weeks ago when his neighbor decided to raise bee colonies next door. 

He presented his views to the Holladay City Council on Thursday night in response to a proposed bee ordinance drafted by the council in a previous meeting. 

The proposed ordinance regulates the number of bee colonies a single-family house can have in relation to plot size. Anything less than 10,000 square feet (about one-quarter acre) is too small to raise bees, but the restriction eases as lot size increases. For instance, on more than an acre of land, there can be up to eight colonies. 

However, the draft ordinance states the number of colonies is unlimited on any parcel of land as long as the bees are 200 feet away in all directions from other property lines.

Richards said he would like to see a clause added to require residents to notify neighbors if they plan to keep hives on their property. 

"If I had been alerted that my neighbor had this case of hives coming in beforehand, I could have had an opportunity to save him some expense and figure out a good location that would work for both of us," he said. 

Bees are attracted to water, particularly pool water, because of the minerals they collect from it. Richards hopes his neighbor will move the bees farther away on his one-third-acre property and provide a bath for the bees so they will not travel to his yard in search of water. 

The proposed ordinance would require Holladay beekeepers to provide a water source within 20 feet to avoid such conflicts. The council also discussed adding a notification clause, as Richards suggested. 

Councilwoman Sabrina Petersen said the clause is "an item of courtesy," not a request for a neighbor's approval to keep bees. She suggested adding stricter setback rules to keep the bees from traveling to adjacent properties as well. 

"I don't really feel sympathy in hindering the beekeeper if it has the potential of protecting neighbors," she said. 

The council based its policy on a bee ordinance in Salt Lake City that requires colonies to have a five-foot setback from the property line. There is, however, no notification clause in the Salt Lake ordinance.

Craig Hall, the city's attorney, owns 16 hives and had a previous incident with his bees and a nearby pool. He removed the bees for safety, but says for the most part bees are "docile, nonaggressive, [but] on occasion they go nuts like everybody else." 

He drafted the proposed ordinance to allow the bees to "coexist" with people in the city. After requests from the council, Hall will add a nuisance portion to address situations where there is a safety or nuisance issue. Petersen advocated for this because some citizens have bee allergies. With the addition, vthe city would be able to remove hives from a keeper if necessary. 

Holladay Mayor Robert Dahle said the council is not "under the gun" on the issue and needs more time for discussion. The council plans to vote on the ordinance June 5.

The discussion comes after the death of a female beekeeper in Box Elder County who was stung more than 30 times at her home on May 13. Petersen said the possibility of "major harm" is why the council needs more stringent policies for bee colonies than for other animals in the city. 

Richards said this concern similarly prompts him to promote better beekeeping regulations because he worries about the safety of his children. Ultimately, he said, he also wants to maintain a good relationship with his neighbor.  

"I don't want to come across as a bee hater," he said. "[But] I do want to figure out a way that we can resolve any miscommunication and misunderstandings before they arise." 

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