Bethel Metz has spent countless hours talking to Port Washington city officials, neighbors and other residents about beekeeping on her property since receiving a letter on Oct. 7 telling her to get rid of the bees.
On Tuesday night, she presented her case to the Common Council; her presentation was followed by support from two other Port Washington residents, one a former alderman.
Though no action was to be taken Tuesday, the topic was added to Thursday night's Plan Commission meeting. Ald. Dan Becker, a member of the commission, said the issue is something that will require research.
"I'm willing to look at it and see what we can do," he said. If an ordinance is passed to allow beekeeping, Becker said it should definitely address owners' education and the hive's location.
The couple brought about 25,000 honey bees to their home in the 100 block of East Van Buren Street in July after taking beekeeping classes at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park earlier this year.
At the height of the summer, they had nearly 100,000 bees living in their hive. The population has now dropped to about 75,000 as the bees prepare for winter.
The Metzes live across the street from the Port Catholic School, St. Mary’s Campus, and while City Attornery Eric Eberhardt said having the hive so close to students is a possible safety and health issue, neither Eberhardt nor City Administrator Mark Grams have spoken to the school to see whether it was a concern.
Metz pointed to communities across the country where elementary schools are home to beekeeping practices for educational purposes; she also has two kids, but that does not leave her concerned about having bees at her home.
"I would never ever allow anything onto my property that would put my children or anyone else's children in harm’s way," she said, adding that honey bees are docile and rarely sting unless they are threatened or their home is threathened.
Tom Hudson, Port resident and former alderman, said he is in support of beekeeping being allowed in the city as long as it is in a responsible manner.
"(Beekeeping) requires an education, (it's) a pretty involved job, you have to do a lot of work," Hudson said. He also said he might be interested in beekeeping, and pointed to beekeeping ordinances in other cities — such as Milwaukee — as a good starting point.
Port resident Mary Boyle also came in support of beekeeping.
"Local food is really important," she said. "These things are happening all over the country. It’s going to be bees and the next thing you’re going to hear about is going to be chickens."
A poll on Patch shows 66 percent of the 247 voters support the Metzes beekeeping hobby, while 33 are against having beekeeping within city limits. This is an unscientific poll.
The Metzes were told to get rid of the bees by Monday, and Eberhardt said that date still stands.
The Plan Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Port Washington City Hall.