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City may allow urban beekeeping

CENTRAL POINT — In response to overwhelming community support for beekeeping inside city limits, the City Council on Thursday gave initial approval to an ordinance that would modify existing nuisance codes and create regulations for hives.

The city's existing municipal code labels beekeeping a nuisance activity. A final vote on the new ordinance is slated for Thursday, Sept. 10. If the measure passes, beekeeping would become legal 30 days later.

The changes would allow people with properties smaller than one acre to maintain up to three hives, while properties larger than one acre could keep up to six hives.

City officials say public support and an overall atmosphere around the state in support of encouraging pollinators prompted the discussion.

At last week's public hearing, Community Development Director Tom Humphrey pointed out that other local cities had already made the move to allow urban beekeeping, including Medford this year and Ashland in 2013. Humphrey quipped that the city was "a little bee-hind" because they were "bee-ing careful" to have guidelines in place.

Language in the proposed ordinance outlines types of bees permitted, appropriate hive equipment, requirements for fresh water supply and a mandate for removal of aggressive hives.

City Councilor Taneea Browning said she was encouraged by the benefits that beekeeping would bring to the community, both economically and environmentally.

"I think it's fantastic for the community and for the economy. We got a lot of great feedback from the community, and citizens were very encouraged about being able to keep bees," Browning said.

“It’s about more than bees being important for our food supply. It’s important for a lot of reasons for our community to support pollinators.”

At last Thursday’s meeting, local beekeeper John Bickel said the city would be wise to allow hives inside the city, adding that most concerns about beehives are unfounded.

Beekeeper Jesse Botens told the council he had been keeping bees "off and on for about 20 years" and had done so in both urban and rural settings.

"I've kept bees everywhere from part of my porch in downtown Seattle to several hives in rural Alaska. Bees are less of a nuisance than dogs," he noted.

"Statistics show you are twice as likely to be killed by lightning and three times more likely to be killed by a dog. Bees are bred to be docile and, honestly, they would rather not bother us because they're pretty busy.”

In answer to concerns about nuisance complaints, Botens pointed out that with a basic hive setup costing about $750, “just because beekeeping could become legalized doesn't mean everybody is going to go out and get a beehive.”

Aside from the proposed beekeeping rules for the city, state law requires anyone with five or more hives to register with the state Department of Agriculture.

On the Web: www.centralpointoregon.gov/cd/page/beekeeping-city-limits

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com