By Tony Scott
Honey may attract flies, as the adage goes, but apparently it does not attract a majority vote of the Yorkville City Council.
Aldermen voted 5-3 Tuesday evening against an ordinance allowing beekeeping within the city limits in single- and two-family residences and within business districts.
The proposal was brought to the council by Alderman Joel Frieders, who keeps bees on his family’s property in Aurora.
Frieders said his initial purpose for bringing the proposal forward was to educate people on the benefits of honeybees.
However, several of his fellow aldermen said they had concerns that the policy did not address recourse for neighbors who did not want honeybees near their property.
Frieders, along with Chris Funkhouser and Diane Teeling, voted in favor of the proposal, while Carlo Colosimo, Jackie Milschewski, Larry Kot, Ken Koch and Rose Spears voted against it. Spears attended via telephone.
According to a memorandum to aldermen from Krysti Barksdale-Noble, the city’s community development director, the ordinance would have required notice given to neighbors about a pending request for a bee colony or apiary (more than one colony).
Colosimo was the first to say he was concerned about the lack of recourse for neighbors. Unlike a special use permit, there was no appeal process if a neighbor objected to the colonies for whatever reason, even if that reason were an allergy to bee stings.
Barksdale-Noble wrote in her memo that city staff saw the process as similar to that of a resident wanting to build a pool or deck in their yard. Of five northern Illinois communities that allow beekeeping – West Dundee, Evanston, Oak Park, Carpentersville, and Skokie – cited by the city in their memo, West Dundee and Skokie require notification of neighbors. Of those two, Skokie requires written consent from abutting neighbors.
Koch said he was raised on a farm and knows the value of honeybees, but said that his concern was about people who are allergic to being stung. He said honeybees don’t sting unless they are disturbed.
“When you start putting them in a residential neighborhood, that can be an issue,” he said.
Milschewski said she was also “concerned about the allergy issue.”
However, Frieders said people could get stung by wasps or other insects whether or not people are keeping bees in the city.
“The idea that you can get stung anywhere holds true no matter if the beekeeping ordinance is passed or not,” he said. “If we’re always grounded in the what-ifs and the fears of things, instead of trying to do something proactive about something that is going to be a global issue, whether we want to discuss it or not, we’re always going to fall in these caveats where, ‘What about that person’s allergy?’”
Frieders said he has a strong sensitivity to gluten.
“If you open a loaf of bread in your house, and you’re my neighbor, in this instance, using this same logic, I should have a right to go, ‘Can you not open the loaf of bread? I’m sensitive,’” he said.
Frieders said the likelihood of getting stung by a honeybee “is so much smaller than a wasp or a hornet.”
“They’re not interested in you, unless you’re over there slapping the beehive,” he said.
Currently, if someone were to keep bees on their property in the city, they would be cited if a complaint were given to the city, according to Barksdale-Noble.
“I would assume that we would issue a violation notice (similar to other building code or zoning code violations) and give them a deadline to comply,” she said. “If compliance is not met by the deadline we would issue a citation and proceed through the administrative adjudication process. Depending on the outcome, this could result in a fine and/or court fees.”
According to City Attorney Kathleen Field Orr, any alderman can bring a failed issue back to a City Council meeting starting with the next session, which begins May 1 and coincides with the city’s fiscal year. Those who voted against the ordinance can bring it back sooner.
“They’re not interested in you, unless you’re over there slapping the beehive.”
Alderman Joel Frieders