Is there anyway to get around town ordinance on bee hive? I live in small town in Va. Town commissioner says that beekeeping, no matter how small, is a form of Agriculture/livestock, which I cannot have in town limits.
Cite the city for every wasp, yellow jacket and hornet nest you can find, they are the original killer stingers, bees are not dying to sting! Realistically, get the media involved so it reflects on the commissioners ignorance of the benefits of bees, and who knows what else is decided on misinformation in chambers
This is definitely just an example of ignorance. Your best defense is going to be education - and you will have to educate those who make the decisions. I had to do the same thing regarding backyard chickens 2 years ago in my small town. It was a hard fight, but ultimately we won, and they changed the ordinance to allow for a small flock of backyard chickens without any special permitting process. It was all about educating the close-minded and the just plain ignorant. Good Luck!
Are gerbils, hamsters, birds and all the pet store wildlife illegal too? Doubt it! If they can have two hives at the White House the legal precedent is set, take your case to the media! CCD! loss of pollinators! dwindling food supplies! Do an editorial piece. You can find plenty of information to support the benefits on the internet. Placing managed hives was probably the best proposal to stop Africanized bees from migrating up Central America, but the US was not willing to support it out of ignorance.
I would site the Boy Scouts efforts in Re-instating the Beekeeping merit badge I'm sure your town allows Boy scouts. A few beehives at least in my opinion does not constitute a Agricultural installment , it's nothing more than a hobby.
Get a copy of the actual ordinance and see what the letter of the law says. Could be your local rep doesn't know the law. If he is correct take it to your state reps. All your other freedoms are being taken away don't let them take this one too!
I would consider going to a city council meeting and making your case. I have a friend that is a falconer and he wanted to keep a red-tail hawk in the back yard. The town he live in said no, birds of prey are considered fowl, and they couldn't be kept because agriculture was prohibited on residential zoned property. My friend took his case to the council, and made the point that it is not agriculture, and that birds of prey are definitely not fowl anymore than dogs are livestock. The city agreed and allowed him to build his facilities.
The same thing went on here with me- the city considered beekeeping an agricultural pursuit, until they realized that there was no statute specifically recognizing beekeeping as an agricultural activity in our town. Then it became simply an issue about whether the bees would be considered an nuisance that would lower property values- I explained that the bees would be a benefit to the community by helping our local gardens, and that unless somebody went digging into the hives, people had no greater chance of being stung by my bees than by the plethora of local wasps. Luckily our city engineer was very eager to hear my explanation of all of this, agreed with me completely, and they gave me the go ahead.
Anyway, the answer is usually no regarding anything out of the ordinary until somebody gives them a good reason why it should be yes. I would definitely go in there and give them a good reason- after all, towns typically want people to be happy living where they're at since they make their money off of property taxes. Tell them you're providing a service which has the potential of creating tax revenue and improving your community, and they'll at least listen to you. None of these rules are written in stone, and you have as much right to help determine them as anyone else.
Here is what the New Market, Virginia Municipal Code says about animals (note there is no mention of bees):
"Sec. 14-1. Livestock prohibited to be at large; impoundment and disposition of animals found at large.
No person shall permit his horse, mule, cow, goat, hog or other livestock to go at large in the town, and any such animal found at large shall be impounded until redeemed. If such animal is not redeemed within 48 hours, it may be sold and the proceeds, after deducting the amount of any fine or costs imposed and the expense incurred for apprehension and keeping, shall be held by the town treasurer for the benefit of the owner, provided that such impoundment shall not bar prosecution of the person responsible for a violation of this section. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a class 4 misdemeanor for each offense.
(Code 1977, § 4-1)"
There is no way any bees "at large" could be identified as being yours. And according to Virginia state law, the legal definition of livestock is:
"ß 3.2-5900. Definitions.
........"Animal" means any organism of the kingdom Animalia, other than a human being......
"Livestock" includes all domestic or domesticated bovine animals; equine animals; ovine animals; porcine animals; cervidae animals; capradae animals; animals of the genus Lama; ratites; fish or shellfish in aquaculture facilities, as defined in ß 3.2-2600; enclosed rabbits or hares raised for human food or fiber; or any other individual animal specifically raised for food or fiber, except companion animals."
By this definition you can't really classify your bees as being livestock if your main reason for having them is for pollinating your flowers and benefiting the environment now can you? Therefore if anyone tries to bust you, just say that according to the local municipal code and Virginia state law, your bees are not considered livestock and there is nothing in the New Market code that says you can't have them. Furthermore, if you are just wanting to provide your flowers with better pollination, I don't think you could even call this agricultural, given the state definition of agricultural activity:
"ß 3.2-400. Definitions.
As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:
"Agricultural activity" means any activity used in the production of food and fiber, including farming, feedlots, grazing livestock, poultry raising, dairy farming, and aquaculture activities."
It's not like you're trying to produce anything, you just want to beautify the gardens of the neighborhood!
In Michigan we have the Right to Farm Act, one of the few pieces of legislation that seems to work right. It protects almost anyone who is engaged in agricultural practices and makes a profit or attempts to make a profit through agriculture. Here's the kicker, though. It trumps virtually all local codes, ordinances, and zoning restrictions. Which means that a backyard beekeeper in a city is protected as a FARMER by state law as long as they attempt to make a profit.
I would find a empty lot that borders the city limits And I mean right on the city limit line and ten feet away from that line. I would Place one big Apriary! and sit back and thumb your nose at city hall.
Avoid the fight and instead ask questions. People naturally dig in for a fight. Questions require answers.
We have a campfire ring out back. Recently, our township, which is becoming increasingly urban, reluctantly passed a waste handling ordinance that includes a ban on burning of refuse and yard waste. The local police and fire departments enforced it as an all inclusive open burning ban. When we asked the local governing official pointed questions on the specifics of the ordinance, on close inspection she surprised herself and agreed that a contained campfire did not fall within the waste handling ordinance and notified the fire chief.
If the specifics include your bees, ask via petition or referendum that bees are excluded. Include in your request similar allowances from other communities that have done so and include specific governing documents with the requirements pertaining to bees. New York City recently made that change and now swank restaurants maintain rooftop hives whose bounty has a place on the menu. Bring the new documents that accomplished that change.
With your request, include locations of community gardens, municipal floral plantings and resident's gardens. Visual aids can be assembled via Google earth, bing maps or similar online satellite services. Go door to door in your area and ask support from residents who want their flowers and vegetables pollinated. List the third of our food that depend on bees for a successful harvest. Explain to your council that urban hives provide pollination for the community at no cost and in terms of true value, honey is an afterthought. Ask your town's council who pollinates their flora.
I started keeping bees about five years ago. I had two difficulties with neighbors. The first one was dispatched when I showed her the difference between a honey bee and a wasp. The second difficulty was solved by putting a hive in their yard. The flight path of my girls was opposite her yard and she became annoyed with the "ooh and aaahhhh" of others while her flowers went lonely. After that neighbor had their best year for cucumbers, I'll never get those hives back. Now I fear for greater difficulty if I stop.
In summary, the cat is out of the bag and a quick search online will illustrate that your community may be just plain dated. Nobody wants that.
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