Evanston alderman Monday again failed to reach agreement on regulating beekeeping in the city.

At a Human Services Committee meeting they learned from staff that a Cook County zoning ordinance on beekeeping does not apply in Evanston, or any other municipality with its own zoning ordinance.

They also reviewed a draft beekeeping ordinance based on one in Aurora, Col., a Denver suburb with a population of nearly 300,000 people.

That ordinance would let a property owner with a quarter-acre or smaller lot have no more than two bee colonies, and would require that hives be placed 15 feet from any adjoining property.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl noted that with most Evanston lots well under a quarter acre in size, that potentially could lead to a situation developing like the one at a publicly-owned community garden plot where there were 16 hives in a very small amount of space, until city officials ordered them removed.

She suggested an amendment to limit the number of hives on a block, or in the city as a whole.

But Health Director Jay Terry noted that the proposed ordinance would not require beekeepers to get permits from the city — enforcement, as with other nuisance ordinance provisions, would be based on complaints from residents.

That, he said, would make it very difficult to enforce a rule based on factors outside the control of the individual property owner — like how many other hives were in a neighborhood.

Although beekeepers have had hives in Evanston for many years without public controversy, a swarm of protest developed in the Ninth Ward this spring when neighbors learned that Susan Dickman of 1517 Madison St. was planning to set up a hive in her yard at the request of her 14-year-old son, who’d developed an interest in bees.

Neighbor John Black of 1503 Madison St. argued Monday that beekeeping should be banned. “The hive is a nuisance, a public health and safety risk and it diminishes our property values,” he said.

Although the setback requirement would bar beekeeping on Evanston lots that are 30 feet or less in width, lots on the 1500 block of Madison are typically 40 feet wide.

Mr. Black said he had counted 12 honey bees in the clover in his yard earlier in the day, and said his mother, who frequently visits his home, is allergic to bee stings.

He suggested at least adopting the 25 foot setback provision he said the Chicago suburb of Palatine requires.

The bee debate is scheduled to continue at the committee’s Aug. 7 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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