Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Major Improvements to Honeybee Ordinance

This morning, the Council voted to approve a significant positive change to the way the City regulates honeybees.

The core of the change, which was authored by Council Member Lisa Goodman with the support of Sustainability Director Gayle Prest, makes it much easier to install a beehive on a rooftop.

In downtown and other densely-developed parts of the city, the old ordinance - which requires prospective beekeepers to get signatures of support from 80% of property owners within 100 feet - was simply unworkable.  When CM Goodman and others became interested in placing a beehive on the roof of City Hall, it became clear what an insurmountable obstacle the old ordinance was.

So under the new ordinance, beehives on the second story or above do not require signatures from neighbors, and do not require fences.  This is based on an understanding of the way bees actually behave; when they leave the hive, they tend to first fly upwards.  The impact of a rooftop hive on its nearest neighbors is negligible.

As this good change came through committee last week, I made an amendment to make it even better.

I have been hearing from beekeepers throughout the Homegrown Minneapolis process that the City's bee ordinance is cumbersome in other ways.  One of the consistent complaints I've heard is that the annual renewal fee of $50 was prohibitively expensive.

Well, it turns out that Animal Care and Control staff agreed.  The annual inspections of beehives that are funded by the renewal fee haven't turned up problems.  Staff supported doing away with the inspections, and making annual renewal free for beehives.  Working with beekeepers and staff, I crafted an amendment to just that, and it passed unanimously in committee.

These two changes open up our honeybee ordinance to allow many more people to keep bees in Minneapolis, and to keep them much more cheaply.  This is very important, and not just as a local food issue.  According to the New York Times, last year was a terrible year for bee deaths in the US.  A huge proportion of our food is pollinated by bees.  The more healthy hives we have in Minneapolis, the better, and it's great to see the City start to really facilitate beekeeping.

This is not necessarily the endpoint for the Minneapolis bee ordinance.  I've heard from beekeepers that the hurdles they must clear to start up are possibly too high.  I am open to bringing another ordinance change this year or next to work on this.

I want to thank Kristy and Erin from the Beez Kneez for their participation in this whole process.  Your help made it possible to make this ordinance better.


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