Published: Feb 25, 2012 11:00 PM
Modified: Feb 25, 2012 11:11 PM
Council rejects proposed bee rules
Backyard beekeepers say restrictions would have barred hobby from Cary.
CARY - The Cary Town Council and about three dozen beekeepers took exception Thursday to staff-proposed rules that effectively would have banned hives from most backyards in town.Council members voted unanimously to return the topic to staff for further research and more discussion with experts.The beekeepers found the proposal too restrictive, but town staff said they intended to address safety concerns while explicitly allowing beekeeping, which town laws currently don't address.The meeting's lone citizen supporter of the rule change, Robert Schenck, said banning the hobby from small lots would allay his safety concerns."We are very concerned, my wife and I, because there already are beehives living next door to us," Schenck said. "And they are quiet, but they can be very deadly," he continued, referring to his wife's allergy to the insects.John Meyer, an N.C. State University professor of entomology, said that honeybees rarely are aggressive and their stings are almost never life-threatening. Often, he said, the real threat comes from yellow jackets.He urged the council to halt the ordinance change and to incorporate experts' opinions if it proceeded."With one size fits all, you're always going to discriminate against somebody," he said, stressing the importance of bees to local flora.The change proposed by Cary staff would limit the number of hives per lot and require construction of barriers.Charles Heatherly, a Cary beekeeper, said the ordinance went too far. "It would ban honeybees from 95 percent of the town," he said.Michelle Roberson, president of the Franklin County Beekeepers Association, said her hobby often faces opposition because of misdirected fears."Beekeeping is an unknown," Roberson said, but rarely causes problems with neighbors. As one woman put it, "Yes, I do get stung, but I'm breaking into their house."Some Cary beekeepers suggested the town could instead focus on resolving specific bee-related conflicts between neighbors, or require certification for hobbyist beekeepers. Another asked whether town data showed the ordinance would measurably benefit Cary.Council members expressed doubts about the proposed ordinance. Councilwoman Julie Robison suggested the town and its residents explore alternatives such as education and certification.Mayor Harold Weinbrecht agreed but added that the town must look into the danger of allergies."I don't want to restrict anyone from doing anything as long as they're not harming anyone else," he said.But Town Attorney Chris Simpson said inaction also could endanger beekeeping. Because town law doesn't address the topic, she said, it is not technically an allowed use of local land.Councilman Jack Smith said the proposed ordinance is too restrictive, but he wants to see more town discussion of the topic."I think we ought to look at creating guidelines," Smith said.Councilman Don Frantz argued that the town should simply permit beekeeping.Councilwoman Gale Adcock also called for a minimal ordinance, saying beekeepers safely regulate themselves.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary