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Evanston may revisit bee rules

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Some Evanston aldermen said they want to take a fresh look at the city's beekeeping ordinance after a woman complained that her neighbor's hive puts her at risk of death from anaphylactic shock.

Speaking during public comment at Tuesday night's Human Services Committee meeting, Nancy Schwartz, of 1106 Hull Terrace, said she suffers from lupus and is highly allergic to bee stings.

She said she was "shocked and appalled" to learn that Evanston's city code allows her next door neighbor to have a beehive, when homes are in such close proximity to each other as they are on her street.

She said the neighbor claims to want to "help the ecological balance of nature" but refused to compromise despite efforts at mediation through the city.

She says the mediator suggested she wear a protective suit or only use her yard after dusk.

"I haven't been in my yard since June when the beehive was installed," Schwartz said.

Evanston aldermen adopted the existing regulations in 2006, after several months of controversy sparked by objections raised by neighbors to plans a local teenager had to set up a beehive in his family's yard.

The ordinance limits the number of residents who can keep beehives to eight in each ward, establishes an annual licensing requirement and sets maintenance standards for the hives. But it does not create any notice requirements or give neighbors any control over whether an application will be approved.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested reviewing the city policy. "I thought there was something in there about contacting neighbors," Holmes said. "I'd like for us to look at it again."

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested Holmes might have been thinking of the 2010 ordinance permitting backyard chickens, which provided for advance notice to adjacent homeowners — but gave them no power to block the use.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said a lot of folks are severely allergic to bee stings. He compared the problem to the issue created for people with asthma if their neighbors set up a fire pit in their yard.

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