The Human Services Committee rejected an outright ban on beekeeping in Evanston Tuesday night, but on a split vote recommended to the City Council a measure that would have much the same effect.

The aldermen voted to amend a proposed ordinance to increase from 15 to 25 feet the minimum required separation of a bee hive from any property line at the suggestion of Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, who had supported a complete ban.

Since the vast majority of lots in Evanston are no more than 50 feet wide, most Evanstonians would be effectively barred from keeping bees if the full City Council adopts that proposal.

“I think 25 feet is ridiculous,” Alderman Steven Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “it would prohibit almost everybody in town.”

The aldermen rejected a proposal from Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, to permit keeping bees if immediate neighbors consented, although supporters of that measure noted that the city lets neighbors vote on alley paving projects, the installation of speed-control humps on the street and whether front-yard fences will be permitted on a block.

“I think that activity [beekeeping] doesn’t work in a compact neighborhood,” Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said.

Ald. Moran, who backed a complete ban, added: “I’m not bothered by bees, but it’s asking too much of people to be tolerant of beekeeeping.”

During a discussion of whether existing hives might be grandfathered in as being permitted under the regulation, the city’s health director, Jay Terry, noted that despite the five months of debate over the issue, the city has only been made aware of two residents who currently keep bees in the city.

One has had no complaints from neighbors. The proposed installation of the other hive sparked the swarm of protest from neighbors that led to the calls for regulation.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who supported the 25-foot rule, said, “We have an obligation to make people feel safe, but you can’t ban bees, they’re going to be be there, even if we ban beekeeping.”

A National Safety Council study mentioned during the committee’s debate estimates that nationwide 66 people die each year of stings from hornets, wasps and bees, compared to 47 killed by lightning and 32 who die of dog bites.

By comparison 3,369 die in fires, 11,920 are killed in assaults using firearms and 44,757 die in motor-vehicle accidents.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Let’s ban bathtubs
    OK, everybody get out their calculators… 66 people NATIONWIDE died from stings from bees, wasps and hornets (notice it didn’t say simply bees — I would wager that wasps and hornets make up a huge percentage of the 66 deaths). Now, take a look at falling into a bathtub… a whopping 332 people die each year from this. Therefore, if we are to follow the reasoning of whoever brought up this ridiculous study — ALL bathtubs should be banned in Evanston. Sound ridiculous? It gives one pause.

    1. beekeeping
      The truth is, all over Evanston, including in my very own neighborhood, people tell me what a ridiculous farce the city council’s response to the issue of beekeeping has been and what a non-issue they think it is–but when push comes to shove, the only way to force the council to do the reasonable–and LEGAL– thing and not create silly setback restrictions that they publically acknowledge have absolutely no meaning but to punish the beekeeper, is to:

      1) vote with your feet and attend the next council meeting
      2) sign up to speak and tell the council that the quality of your neighborhood has not changed negatively with the knowledge of a honey bee hive nearby
      3)sign the online petition (google “hobbyist beekeeping in evanston” to get to it, and add your name AND ADDRESS–and any comment)
      4) tell others to stop complaining about what a botched waste of time this has been, and tell them instead to MOVE on it and ACT befor their hobby/interest becomes outlawed next
      5) ask people what they are doing about the aggressive and severely toxic yellowjackets that surround them as they shop at the Farmer’s Market & why that isn’t an issue but one hive with gentle bees is
      6) challenge your neighbors about what being “neighborly” truly means

      P.S.–At what point are people who grow flowers, vegetables and fruits in their gardens going to be held responsible for attracting all manners of stinging insects? At what point are people going to take responsibility for ackowledging the connection between insects and the foods they grow and eat?

    2. Bees, bathtubs and alderman
      I believe the alderman who were in favor of having 25 foot set back for bee hives should also ban the installation of bath tubs in houses. Think how much safer we will all be knowing that your neighbor won’t be able to slip and fall in the bath tub.

      While the council is at it they should probably ban the sale of peanuts since we know there are people who are allergic to nuts.

      Ask how your alderman voted and hold them accountable!

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