Port Washington officially became a bee-friendly community on Tuesday night after the Common Council's approval of a beekeeping ordinance — a move that some say will make Port a star player in the urban beekeeping movement.
The ordinance, which was several months in the making, requires residents interested in taking up the hobby to alert their neighbors, acquire proper education and pay a $25 application fee and then a $5 annual renewal fee.
The ordinance also includes regulations about placement of the hives, numbers of hives and inspections of the hives by a designated bee expert as well as requirements for public hearings should enough neighbors object to the person operating a hive on their property.
It's the final version after a variety of drafts that were reworked to include input from urban beekeeping experts and reviews of other city ordinances. Now, it looks as if some cities might turn to Port in drafting similar ordinances.
"I've had people ask me for this ordinance and one of those is someone who is taking it to their Plan Commission (in Los Angeles)," said Bethel Metz, an urban beekeeper in Port.
Charlie Koenen, who teaches beekeeping skills at the Urban Ecology Center and has been involved in drafting just under 30 such ordinances, was one of the experts closely involved in the process.
"It's really a well-written first draft," Koenen had said about the original draft of the ordinance, which was introduced on Dec. 20. "This one (is) the best I've seen first out of the gate."
Koenen attended every Common Council meeting since that original draft was introduced. He also taught the class where Port residents Bethel and Mike Metz learned about beekeeping before taking up the hobby on their property.
In fact, it was the Metzs' beehives that got this issue on the council's to-do list in the first place.
The Metzs brought about 25,000 honey bees to their home in the 100 block of East Van Buren Street in July after taking beekeeping classes with Koenen. After a complaint surfaced with city officials, the couple was told to stop using their property for beekeeping by Oct. 24. A conversation about an ordinance to allow beekeeping has been ongoing since a mid-October council meeting.
"I want to start out by thanking all of you for listening to me for the last three months," Bethel said after the unanimous approval of the ordinance. "When we started this process, it started with very panicked phone calls … I was urged to proceed with litigation and I maintained that this was simply a misunderstanding — something that could have been changed with sharing of information. I’m glad that you proved me correct."
Several aldermen echoed Bethel's positive statement about the governmental process that was able to take place to install this ordinance.
"I think it's in order to thank the Metzes and Charlie … I think it's turned out to be really a nice exercise to make Port be ... a bee-friendly community," Ald. Burt Babcock said.