The T-shirt slogans told part of the story at the Orem CityCouncil meeting Tuesday. “Bee aware — without them there would beno us.” “Beekeepers’ reward: Helping the bees, honey, helping theenvironment, honey, helping the pollination, honey.” and “Catch thebug — be a beekeeper.”
With some sporting the T-shirts, dozens of local beekeepersswarmed into the meeting to express their viewpoints on bees and topress for an ordinance that would make beekeeping a permitted usein the city’s residential and industrial zones.
The city council heard from the beekeepers and from one or twoopposing voices and ultimately went against an Orem PlanningCommission recommendation to maintain the city’s ban on bees onresidential lots (with the exception of those used in orchards oragricultural enterprises).
The Utah County Beekeepers Association had applied for thechange to allow the beekeeping. The group gave an educationalpresentation on the subject to the council in a September worksession and had submitted a proposed ordinance.
But Heather Schriever of the city’s legal staff researched theissue and came up with the city’s proposed ordinance, whichprovided more regulation than state law. Tuesday, the city counciltweaked the ordinance on the number of hives allowed onvarious-size lots and added language more clearly defining”nuisance,” to give more protection to neighbors.
As approved, the law provides for limiting the species of beesthat can be kept in the city limits to the common honeybee(specifically excluding the more aggressive Africanized bees),requires compliance with all state laws, requires theimplementation of safety measures if a hive is located within 25feet of an adjacent property line or public access point, requiresa beekeeper to maintain a convenient water source for the beesduring the beekeeping season (March 1 to Oct. 31) and requiresproper handling of beekeeping equipment.
In addition, Orem’s ordinance allows two hives on lots that are8,000 square feet or smaller; three hives on lots from 12,000 to20,000 square feet and up to five hives on lots that are one-halfacre or more.
City attorney Paul Johnson suggested the extra language thatcould categorize the beekeeping as a nuisance if bees travel to anyneighboring property to such an extent that the residents cannotenjoy the full use of their property without coming into conflictwith the bees or if there is a person with a known allergy livingadjacent to a lot with hives.
The first person to speak in favor of changing Orem’s law toallow beekeeping on residential lots was Meredith Seaver, thechairwoman of the planning commission, who said her vote was thesole positive vote in favor of the change. She said she believedthe commission’s concerns were based on fear and superstitionrather than fact.
Seaver said that if the city followed the commission’srecommendation, Orem would be only the second city in the “BeehiveState” to ban residential beekeeping. She said she supports thepractice because of the pollination benefits to those with homegardens and trees and for the benefits to the community of health,sustainability and food security.
Others said they and their neighbors have seen a definitepositive difference in flower gardens and fruit and vegetable cropsafter hives were added to the neighborhood.
Sam Wimpfheimer, elected president of the UCBA, said beekeepersare the first line of defense against the incursion of Africanizedbees because the keepers can recognize the more aggressive bees. Healso said beekeeping allows people to provide for theirfamilies.
One Orem woman, who asked that her name not be used, told thecouncil that a neighbor had placed eight hives on the lot behindher home, and the large number of bees that had gravitated to heryard had affected the ability of her children to be outdoors. Thehigh number of bees had restricted her family’s use of their ownproperty, she said.
Exiting the meeting, Wimpfheimer said he felt the law passed bythe council was “reasonable.”