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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
At the top is the town planners responce to me and at the bottom is the mail I sent him yesterday.





Mr. Wittig,



In my response to you I did not refer to Sec. 14-1 of the Town Code or even determine that bees are livestock. The references in my response were from the Zoning Ordinance, which I do not believe is listed with the other laws and regulations maintained by the Municipal Code Corporation. Although, it is available on the Planning and Zoning page on the town website.



The local definition of agriculture (Sec. 70-10 of the Zoning Ordinance) is: the tilling of the soil, the raising of crops, horticulture and forestry; including the keeping and raising of animals, fish and fowl.



It is important to note that uses not specifically listed in an individual zoning district are prohibited in that district. I have been unable to find beekeeping as a listed use in any district. The closest land use I could find for beekeeping was agriculture as defined above. Additionally, a list of permitted uses and permitted uses with a conditional use permit in the R-2 District has been attached to this email for your reference. If you are able to find where beekeeping would be permitted I would certainly be open to discussing it. Home gardens are permitted in all districts that allow residential uses per Sec. 70-128 (f) of the Zoning Ordinance.



Please note that the ordinances you provided from Fairfax and Prince William both have zoning regulations permitting the keeping of bees. As I noted above, I do not have such language to work with in our local ordinances. Should you wish to work on providing a text amendment application to have the Zoning Ordinance amended to allow beekeeping I would be willing to meet with you and assist you on the application process.



Chad Neese

Town Planner/Zoning Administrator






--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2010 9:21 PM
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Beekeeping



Mr. Neese,

I have been looking over State Codes and I cannot understand how you came up with your decision on the beekeeping question I presented to you. Below are some of my findings.







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 mine since bees are everywhere anyway. 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 bees as being livestock if your main reason for having them is for pollinating your flowers and benefiting the environment. Therefore according to the local municipal code and Virginia State law, bees are not considered livestock and there is nothing in the New Market code that says you can't have them. Furthermore, if I am just wanting to provide my 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 I'm trying to produce anything, I'm just want to beautify the gardens of the neighborhood! Futhermore we have gardens in New Market, if that is not agriculture then why have you decided a bee hive is.



§ 3.2-2800. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Beekeeper" means any person who keeps and manages bees for profit, and shall include those growers who keep bees for pollinating crops.

Below is Fairfax and Prince William County Code on Beekeeping. You can't get much more urban than these counties in VA. For that matter, there is bee hives on the White House lawn.

FAIRFAX COUNTY ZONING ORDINANCE, Article 2 General regulations, PART 5
2-500 QUALIFYING USE, STRUCTURE REGULATIONS, Section 2-512, Limitations
on the Keeping of Animals
and
Prince William County CODE OF ORDINANCES, CHAP 32 ZONING. ARTICLE III. AGRICULTURAL AND
RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS, PART 300. GENERAL REGULATIONS, Sec. 32-300.02.
have identical wording:
"The keeping of honeybees in four beehives or less shall be permitted as an accessory use to a residential principal use on any lot. On any lot of 10,000 square feet in size or larger, more than four beehives may be kept, provided there is an additional lot area of 2,500 square feet for each hive. In all instances, there shall be one adequate and accessible water source provided on site and located within 50 feet of the beehive(s). In addition, if the landing platform of a hive faces and is within ten feet of any lot line, there shall be a flight path barrier, consisting of a fence, structure or plantings not less than six feet in height, located in front of the hive. "





Also I have contacted Keith Tignor to see if he can help me further enlighten you on beekeeping. He is the VDACS of Virginia or the state apiarist.
 

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He has it backwards. He is looking for a rule stating that it is permitted. I would not ask him any further questions. He thinks like a bureaucrat who feels his job is to deny unless he HAS to approve.

Any town that doesn't have an ordinance against beekeeping could instead be viewed as permitting it. I think I'd just go ahead and get started. If it would ever come up again, ask them to point you to a law that says you can't keep bees. (Clearly they can't, as he couldn't.) If their is any question, I'd think you'd have a good argument that the bees (as long as it is only a couple of hives, not a major commercial operation) are part of the "home garden" as they are necessary to the pollination of your home garden plants, and thus are specifically allowed by the zoning rules.

My two cents, but I'm no expert.
 

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He has it backwards. He is looking for a rule stating that it is permitted. I would not ask him any further questions. He thinks like a bureaucrat who feels his job is to deny unless he HAS to approve.

Any town that doesn't have an ordinance against beekeeping could instead be viewed as permitting it.
Yeah, it's sort of like saying if the town does not have a law stating it's permitted to walk down the street while whistling to yourself, then it must be illegal to do so.
 

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It is important to note that uses not specifically listed in an individual zoning district are prohibited in that district.
...

Should you wish to work on providing a text amendment application to have the Zoning Ordinance amended to allow beekeeping I would be willing to meet with you and assist you on the application process.

On the one side, I'd say he needs to get his thinking straightened out. This country was founded on the concept that something not expressly denied by law is allowed. I'd ask to see what legal language says that something not listed is prohibited.

On the other side, he does seem to be open to actually helping you make it specifically listed, which could help you and your community in the long run. I wouldn't burn that bridge if I were you.
 

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He is a civil servant operating in the bounds of what he's tasked to do. What is great is that he made it clear he isn't trying to prevent you from doing keeping bees, only limited in how he can, and has offered to work with you to amend the zoning language to allow it. He's being cooperative, which is fantastic.

Obviously, it would be nice if he said 'yes', however in saying he'll work with you to amend that language, what you've got is very close.

Good luck. It sounds like you can probably look at the language from those other counties to help modify the local zoning ordinances. Its nice to have a civil servant who is willing to look at ways to changing the regs to meet real world needs.

:)
 

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Any town that doesn't have an ordinance against beekeeping could instead be viewed as permitting it. I think I'd just go ahead and get started.
That is what we did in my city. I emailed the city, asked what the city ordinances were for clothes lines, chickens and bees. I was told that the city didn't regulate clothes lines and bees, only the chickens. So we went ahead and purchased our bees. I'm keeping my letter from the city handy if there is ever a problem. Like you said, if there isn't an ordinance in place than it isn't illegal. My note from the city pretty much said that. No ordinance just means one could be put in place later which may or may not affect an already "in business" beekeeper depending on where you live. I would get the hive now so that if ordinances are put in place say next year you might be grandfathered in and it wouldn't apply to you (depending on how laws work in your state).
 

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I would bet that in your town it's acceptable to work on your own car in your driveway but you could not hang out a sign and run a car repair business in your driveway.

I would bet that in your town it's acceptable to plant a garden that mignt include a row or two of corn but you could not plow up your entire front yard and plant corn from end to end.

Keeping a single hive (or even two) of bees in a back yard is in the same category. It is a hobby, a leisure pursuit in your case. You are not changing the "use" of your land to beekeeping. It is still a residential property where you have a home, yard, patio. You live there and come and go just like all of your neighbors.

Your next door neighbor likes to work on his car in his driveway but he has not changed the "use" of his property to be an auto repair facility. Your other neighbor likes to grow vegetables in the back yard but she has not changed the "use" of her property into a farm.

The beekeeping just happens to have a stronger negative stigma attached to it because most people categorize all stinging insects together under the label of "bee". Everyone has been stung or knows someone who has been stung and maybe even had a bad allergic reaction. That is what you are really up against. The zoning ordinances are just a convenient excuse.

I would proceed with having the bees AND continue to work with your local leaders to clarify the language since they're willing. If they are reasonably intelligent people (no guarantees there) and you walk them through the examples I gave, you may get somewhere.
 

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Agreed. There clearly is no law against keeping bees in your area and you just confirmed it with "the man". Get ya some bees and start doing your part to make this a better world.
 

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Use top bar hives, the town fathers will peek into your yars, won't see anything they think of as a hive and figure you didn't bother. LOL My neighbors didn't know I had hives till I told them and they said, "Those ar bee hives?"
Seriously, I would go ahead and get your bees, there is clearly no law against it. I would also work with the guy making a law that does specifically allow it. It sounds like that is what he would like you to do.
Robee
 

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Two things-

Zoning laws can't be totally exclusionary, everything has to allowed somewhere.

BUT.....

Be like NIKE..

JUST DO IT.......

Its much easier to seek forgiveness than it is permission.
 

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As aside, I do agree with people that you might as well keep a hive or few while working this through. Unless a neighbor files a complaint, its unlikely they are going to be sending anyone to your yard to check things out anyway.

Its all risk management. As long as you don't mind a fine in worst case if somehow someone gets pissy, and its low odds to happen anyway, why not just have the hive while also working through things to get official permit?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
This is the original email he sent me after I emailed him asking if there were any laws against it.

Thomas,

After a thorough review of the Town Code, as well as the Code of Virginia, I have determined that beekeeping is not currently permitted within the Town of New Market. It has been interpreted to be an agricultural use based upon its function per the local zoning laws (Sec. 70-10, 70-21(a), and 70-28(c)) and is listed as such in the Code of Virginia Sec. 3.2-4400 – 4414). The zoning laws of New Market only permit agricultural uses by conditional use permit in the R-1 district on properties containing at a minimum 3 acres. The list of agricultural uses permitted within the Town of New Market include: general farming; pasturing; grazing; horticulture; outdoor plant nurseries; orchards; truck farming; forestry; sod farming; wild crop harvesting; and greenhouses.

Please note that the size of the operation is not the issue, it is simply the use. For example, the keeping or raising of pigs in town is prohibited. It doesn’t matter if there are 20 pigs or 1 pig, it is simply not permitted. Beekeeping would be interpreted in the same manner. Should you believe that my decision concerning this matter is incorrect, you will have 30 days from the date of this correspondence to appeal my decision should you wish to do so. I would be more than willing to meet with you to assist you through the appeals process should you decide to do so.


I would like to thank you for your inquiry and additional information that you provided. I am sorry that I wasn’t able to help you on this matter.



Chad Neese

Town of New Market

P.O. Box 58

New Market, Virginia 22844

540-740-3432
 

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This is the original email he sent me after I emailed him asking if there were any laws against it.
The list of agricultural uses permitted within the Town of New Market include: general farming; pasturing; grazing; horticulture; outdoor plant nurseries; orchards; truck farming; forestry; sod farming; wild crop harvesting; and greenhouses.
Beekeeping would be covered within the categories of general farming, pasturing, or grazing, since the latter two especially cover the majority of honey bee activity. That there is nothing explicitly permitting or prohibiting beekeeping is encouraging; one can just go ahead. Be sure to give away lots of honey to neighbors & spread understanding about bees & swarming.

Agriculture & farm exemptions, both rural and urban, for honey processing may also apply, in that you do not need special food-processing kitchens & health code inspections to produce and market one's own honey.

Laws governing beekeeping and bee product production and marketing are if anything becoming more liberal due to pressure from honey producers and urban activists. I'd talk to your local city or county council members about normalizing beekeeping ordinances with the rest of civilization.

Evidently your petty bureaucrats enjoy the forbid-by-default powers they've given themselves. But from the get-go of the US anyway, it was declared that inalienable rights come from the Guy Upstairs, not from gummint. I'd say beekeeping falls under the heading of Pursuit of Happiness.

And I'd echo the sentiment of others here: just do it, keep your head down, and in future don't automatically go on bended knee before pencil-necked paper-pushers.

//Alex T.
 
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