The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission last week took one step closer to endorsing a bee-keeping ordinance that would regulate hives in the city.
It is uncertain how many beehives already exist in Hailey.
The P&Z voted to keep hives off lots less than 8,000 square feet, and include hive maintenance requirements, such as access to fresh water, and assurances that the hives are in good working condition.
Several supporters of urban bee-keeping attended a P&Z meeting on Monday, June 24, to gather information on the proposed ordinance. They included Tom Harned, owner of Five Bee Hives, Hallie Reikowsky, education manager of the Hunger Coalition Hope Garden, and Kate Besst, owner of Willow Creek Nursery in Fairfield.
“All were pushing for less regulation of urban hives,” said Hailey Community Development Director Micah Austin. “So far, comment has been very positive. But we want to hear from people who have concerns about this. We also want to make sure people are being responsible with their hives.”
Austin said restricting hives to lots of at least 8,000 square feet limits interaction between bees and people.
“The commission didn’t want hives at townhouses or on back porches with 60,000 bees flying around,” he said.
The P&Z took public comment before deciding to strike a requirement in the draft ordinance that would prohibit placing hives less than 30 feet from sandboxes, play sets and other places where children gather.
The commission voted to require a 30-foot setback from buildings and a 7-foot setback from property lines. The proposed ordinance states that a hive 30 feet or less from a property line must be separated by a 6-foot-high hedge, wall or other kind of barrier.
“Bees are cruisers,” Austin said. “This barrier would keep them above people’s heads as they leave hives and are on their way to wherever they’re going.”
The proposed ordinance would allow hives in Deerfield, Fox Acres, Della View, Northridge and Curtis subdivisions, as well as hundreds of combined lots in old Hailey. It would limit bee-keeping on some smaller lots in Woodside, China Gardens and North Star Meadows subdivisions.
“Bees are having a pretty hard time making it on their own anymore,” Harned said in a recent interview.
He took to beekeeping four years ago and today has 400 hives, which he rotates through plots in Croy and Quigley canyons near Hailey, as well as backyards in Hailey and Bellevue that he rents from their owners, paying in honey. “Research shows that about 98 percent of feral hives have vanished from our landscape—killed off by other introduced bugs and diseases. In general, the only bees left are those under the care of beekeepers.”
The next public meeting on the bee-keeping ordinance will take place at City Hall on Monday, July 22, at 6:30 p.m.