St. Louis Park City Council deadlocks on beekeeping
After months of buzz, the St. Louis Park City Council deadlocked on whether to regulate beekeeping.
The council voted 3-3 Nov. 5 on a motion by Councilmember Anne Mavity to reject a city staff proposal to institute regulations on beekeeping. Councilmember Susan Sanger then made a motion to approve the staff proposal, a move that also met with a 3-3 tie vote. Councilmember Sue Santa did not attend the meeting, and a tie vote equates to a motion’s failure.
“Both motions fail so we can’t do anything,” said a frustrated Mayor Jeff Jacobs. “As a practical matter, we haven’t done anything at all. That’s perfect. Once again, reasonableness goes down the drain.”
Director of Inspections Brian Hoffman raised the issue of beekeeping last June after he said the city received complaints about bees. City code does not clearly state whether beekeeping is allowed.
Bee enthusiasts protested the idea, though, prompting the council to study the issue further during work sessions.
Staff presented a proposal Nov. 5 that would permit beekeeping on single-family lots, school district property and on city-owned properties with certain restrictions. Beehives would have to be kept at least 20 feet away from property lines except when the property owner installed a wall or solid fence of at least 6 feet in height. In such circumstances, hives could be kept as near as 10 feet from property lines.
“By requiring a solid fence or wall at least 6 feet high, the bees are forced to fly up and over neighboring areas and cannot fly through the barrier in any way,” states a staff report.
Beekeepers would also need to maintain a water source within 10 feet of each bee colony to prevent the bees from searching on other properties for water.
The provisions would not be enforced unless the city received a complaint, according to the staff report.
During a public hearing, St. Louis Park resident Rachel Callanan said the bees she kept while living in Minneapolis never stung her children.
“I don’t know that there really is a serious danger,” Callanan said. “Humans have coexisted with bees forever, and in fact our food supply depends upon it.”
She opposed regulating beekeeping but said she believed the council had considered the issue thoughtfully.
“I don’t believe any regulation is necessary, but I think if we’re going to have regulation, the proposal on hand is probably not a horrible idea,” Callanan said.
St. Louis Park resident Mark Clifford said he appreciated the time the council members took to educate themselves on the issue.
“I echo Rachel in thinking you don’t need a regulation at all, but after reading what you’ve come up with I think you’ve been fair,” Clifford said.
He advised the council to allow beekeepers to plant arbor vitae or a shrub instead of a wall or fence as a flyway barrier.
“The idea of a wall where I have my hive is not impossible, but it’s certainly not the most attractive thing I would put up,” Clifford said.
Jacobs said the council could discuss alternatives for barriers between the first and second readings of the proposed ordinance, but the matter never reached that point.
Mavity called the proposal “complete overreach.”
“I agree with our speakers, and I do believe this is a solution in search of a problem,” Mavity said. “We do not have a problem with beehives in St. Louis Park.”
Similarly, Councilmember Jake Spano said, “I think this is absolutely something that we are way in over our heads on. It’s not a problem, and we’re trying to create rules to solve a non-existent problem.”
However, Sanger said, “I have come to the conclusion that we really shouldn’t have beehives in St. Louis Park, period – that we’re too dense a community, and we’re getting denser.”
Bees have the potential to create disputes between neighbors and are a public health issue, Sanger argued.
“A number of people are allergic to bee stings and they should not be subjected to bees or not be able to use their backyard because somebody has bees,” Sanger said.
She said she knew a total ban would not prevail, though, leading her to make a motion to support the staff proposal.
After both motions failed, the council did not make a decision on how to proceed. The seven-member council could potentially cast another vote relating to beekeeping in the future.