Despite objections from neighbors near a property at 2511 Croixwood Blvd., Stillwater City Council members approved a one-year trial for Claire Sand to own bees and engage in beekeeping on her property.
“We received her beekeeping application, notified the neighbors as necessary and had several letters and calls of concern come in, and that is why this issue is before you tonight,” Community Development Director Bill Turnblad said.
The plans Sand submitted for the beehive meet all specifications necessary to comply with the permit and exceeded some of the requirements, such as including a 30-foot space between the properties abutting her yard and a six-foot-tall flyaway fence set up so that the bees follow an upwards flight path. She’s also planning on installing a water source with scented water to make sure that the bees are drawn directly to the hive and away from neighbors’ pools.
“Fifteen years ago I became interested in bees, which was strange because I’ve never been a fan of anything with more than four legs ever,” Sand said. “And as I learned more about what was happening to them and our environment, I began to think about doing something to help. Maybe turning 50 had something to do with it this year, but I decided that life was too short and I wanted to start beekeeping as a hobby.
“I did my research, I met with the honeybee club, and as the idea became more solid, I knew I would have to talk to my neighbors about it. I invited them to an evening to learn more, and no one showed up unfortunately.”
At least five neighbors, out of the 14 that were notified about the issue in accordance with the current ordinance, showed up to the council meeting to oppose a permit.
Concerns expressed by neighbors included worry for friends and family members with bee sting allergies, the upkeep of their sheds if they would be impacted by the bees’ urine, bees flying into nearby pools, the fact that many people are outside in the summer and a feeling that an increase in bees could be detrimental to quality of life and real estate opportunities. They also expressed a tremendous fear of swarms.
“My wife and I are against the issue of bees,” Sand’s neighbor Bruce Claussen said. “We live in a caul-de-sac, and there are lots of children running around. Our neighbors entertain frequently, as do we, and some are allergic, as am I. When there’s good weather there are more children and adults present. Many of us have gardens, and there’s absolutely no problem when it comes to pollination. Yes, there are beekeepers in neighborhoods throughout Stillwater, but there’s not one in ours. My other neighbors have an issue with it as well, and we are against it.”
Some other beekeepers who were present in support of Sand spoke to the neighbors fears, thanking them for bringing their concerns forward and not just blindly objecting to the bees without doing some research.
“Since I know there have been many concerns expressed by the neighbors here, I think I’d like to suggest to the council to look into a possible one-year trial period as they’ve done for others,” Elizabeth Welty said. “In the past when there have been trial periods, most people don’t notice a difference in the amount of bees near their property. Honestly, my bees are dispersed throughout everyone’s yards in the city of Stillwater. Last year I didn’t see my bees ever until the late, late season when pickings are slim for nectar.”
When it came to swarms, Welty said that they are not dangerous and someone could even put an ungloved hand through the swarm without being stung. She admitted that they looked scary, but also said that swarms for beekeepers are bad. It means they aren’t taking very good care of their hives, and most beekeepers will work hard to prevent swarms, because when swarms occur, the bees die. She added that the Stillwater honeybee club also has a network of beekeepers who can be called to take care of swarms.
The police and fire chief said that no reports of swarms have been made since the ordinance allowing bees went into effect more than a year ago.
“Beekeepers put thousands of dollars into their hobby,” Welty said. “It’s a huge investment they don’t want to lose.”
The council approved a one-year trial permit for Sand. It was approved 4-1 with councilmember Mike Polehna dissenting.
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