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Beekeeping Debate Continues to Sting in Port

While Port Washington Common Council members remain undecided whether an ordinance should allow beekeeping, the Plan Commission was given permission to research and draft regulations surrounding the activity.

While the Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday night gave permission to the Plan Commission to draft an ordinance regarding beehives within city limits, the council remained split on whether that ordinance should actually allow bees.

The discussion comes after Port residents Bethel and Mike Metz to their home in the 100 block of East Ban Buren Street. The city told the Metzes to , a demand and .

Mayor Scott Huebner said he does not think the bees could cause a significant problem in Port Washington.

"My youngest son plays by the bees all the time," Huebner said. "He hasn’t been stung; he hasn’t noticed the bees. Neither has the playground attendants, or the principal. I don’t think we have a problem. A kid at Port Catholic has a better chance of getting hit by a car than getting stung by a bee."

Others were more critical. Although he didn't vote against drafting the regulations, Ald. Joe Dean said he thought the drafting could be a waste of time because he is leaning toward eventually voting against allowing the Metzes ability to keep their bees.

"I get the pollination, and the food chain, and the cool factor," Dean said. "Here’s where the conundrum comes in. Your right to swing your fists ends at my jaw ... Someday my, "yes" vote could lead to a Port Catholic kid getting stung and going into anaphylactic shock."

The Plan Commission will continue researching the issue before drafting regulations that could either allow or prohibit urban beekeeping in Port.

If the commission votes to allow beekeeping, possible regulations include a required distance between hives and a required distance from schools and playgrounds. The Metzes' home shares a block with .

The city Oct. 7 telling them to remove their bees because of several violations . After the Metzes and others made their case for keeping the bees, the Common Council decided to allow the Metzes to keep the bees while they sort out what to do.

Ald. Dan Becker also had doubts about the bees, but he supported drafting regulations in order to have a more educated discussion.

"I’m kind of torn on it," he said. "I want to see how we would regulate this, what our draft would look like, for further discussion."

The Plan Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17 to discuss the regulations.

Matthew Doers November 03, 2011 at 12:17 PM
i agree Dave..... OMG we have to protect or kids from every little bug and any thing that could cause a little pain... I see no problems with the bee hives. if a kids going to get stung there going to get stung.. its a fact of life
Jennifer Flannery November 03, 2011 at 01:37 PM
This statement from Alderman Dean: "I get the pollination, and the food chain, and the cool factor," Dean said. "Here’s where the conundrum comes in. Your right to swing your fists ends at my jaw ... Someday my, "yes" vote could lead to a Port Catholic kid getting stung and going into anaphylactic shock." ARE YOU SERIOUS?? HOW WERE YOU ELECTED? Perhaps Port Catholic should not be allowed to offer a school - what if a child is hit by a car walking to school or is molested by a priest?? Bad arguement Alderman Dean...you need a new hobby..
Nathan Flynn November 03, 2011 at 02:46 PM
The Port Washington Garden Club uses a number of community residents' gardens to raise money through the Garden Walk and selling bulbs and plants, the very definition of agricultural use. The Garden Walk draws dozens of little old ladies who have difficulty crossing the street. Anyone attempting to cross Grand Ave knows it is nearly impossible to do so west of downtown. The right of the Garden Club to swing their collective fist ends at my jaw. What if by allowing this, even though it isn't permitted by the code and therefore explicitly a denied use, some gray haired little old lady gets hit by a car, or a bus, or worse yet, a city owned vehicle, and the entire city of Port Washington is held liable for it? Thoughts, Mr. Dean? I'd call to discuss but you're the only alderman without a contact phone number.
C Jors November 03, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Swing your fists ... sounds like a warrior looking for a fight. Since bees fly, it would be fairly difficult to ascertain if a Metz bee caused all the trouble. Perhaps the ordinance should include some type of tagging or collaring of the bees. Then we'd know whom to blame.
Flyer November 03, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Eureka! Collaring of kept bees to ascertain the origin of offending bees!
Nathan Flynn November 03, 2011 at 04:59 PM
According to the National Safety Council, a person has a 1 in 5,862 chance of dying from an air and space accident and a 1 in 62,950 chance of dying from a bee, hornet, or wasp sting. Joe Dean is the Chairman of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. Apparently he is willing to put World War II veterans at agreater risk of dying than those children at St. Mary's school. Thank goodness we have people like Joe Dean who seek to protect the general public at all costs, even when the general public doesn't need or want his protection.
Mary Boyle November 03, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I could see one person on the council still having indecision, but nearly half? After Charlie Koenen and everyone else's statements? Clearly the majority of the community is behind this - the common council is supposed to represent us!! Quite frankly, it doesn't really matter what the aldermen want - it's what the community wants that matters. And yes, people are allergic to bees - what are you going to do? Ban all bees from the city? That's the most ridiculous argument I've ever heard.
Nathan Flynn November 03, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Mary--It appears from one email response I got from the aldermen, they are 'still learning'. It really doesn't seem that way when the meetings are used to defend the actions of the overzealous (when it comes to lawns but underzealous when it comes to bees?) city attorney. What more do you need 'to learn' when the majority of residents are in support of an ordinance that allows responsible beekeeping for personal purposes? Better yet, what are you waiting for? There is no excuse for ignorance. It is willful stupidity. Especially with the Internet at your fingertips!
Mary Boyle November 03, 2011 at 08:48 PM
I have to applaud Mayor Huebner - he's really gotten behind the Metzes and this ordinance. My favorite alderman, Jim Vollmar, was very vocal in his support, as well. Kudos to the two of them.
Sam Vedder November 03, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Dear Mr. Vollmar, If you read this please see Mary Boyle's comment. YOU are her favorite alderman! That should scare you. I don't know when you are up for re-election, but this is not good news for you. With friends like that... And to the Mayor- Doesn't the fact that Mary Boyle applauds you tell you that you are probably on the wrong side of this issue?
Nathan Flynn November 03, 2011 at 11:35 PM
You know, with all the conflicting stories surrounding this, if I were a Patch reporter, I'd do a request for the emails surrounding this issue. I think it would be very interesting.
Mary Boyle November 04, 2011 at 02:25 AM
Whoa. What did I do to rub you the wrong way, Sam? I'm going to wreck the city simply because I think that beekeeping should be allowed here? I must be missing something - do tell.
Tom Hudson November 04, 2011 at 03:54 AM
(From an email I just sent the mayor) If Ald. Dean is so concerned about the City licensing honeybees and someone getting stung, he should probably rethink his position on the Finance & License Committee, where he routinely issues licenses to alcohol servers who could possibly over-serve someone and result in an alcohol-related injury or death. The fact is, the City acts in a reasonable manner to issue licenses with appropriate restrictions on many activities -- beekeeping has been shown to be a very low-risk activity in many places around the country and I think it would work well here with the kind of guidelines used in Milwaukee's beekeeping ordinance.
Sam Vedder November 04, 2011 at 05:22 AM
@Mary... It is true that I don't know you at all, outside of what I read from you on Patch. However; you have a track record of being very critical, in a disrespectful and condescending way, toward anyone that disagrees with you. You make it very clear that you believe in free speech as long as everyone agrees with you. If someone has a different opinion from you, you belittle and mock them relentlessly. In my my mind, that makes you a hypocrite, and I have little patience for liberals... I mean hypocrites.
Mary Boyle November 04, 2011 at 03:47 PM
I do have a very strong voice when I have a strong opinion; however, it is based on actual research. I would never, as you have done, disagree with someone on a topic simply because of their political choices. I have good friends on both sides of the aisle and I pride myself on being very open minded. I would never tarnish someone's reputation simply based on their political leanings. We are talking about whether the city should allow beekeeping, sir, not whether people are liberal or conservative. Those words have no place in this conversation. I would love to hear why you think that beekeeping should not be allowed, though. If you have a worthy argument to make that you feel strongly about, you shouldn't hesitate to weigh in - you should also be willing to sign your entire name to it.
Sam Vedder November 04, 2011 at 06:32 PM
@Mary... When did I ever disagree with anyone based on anything other than my opinion of that particular topic? You may not (attempt) to tarnish someones reputation based on their political leanings, you just do it when they don't agree with you.
Sam Vedder November 04, 2011 at 06:47 PM
@Mary (part II)... I don't know what kind of research you do, but I'm guessing that you search for sources that support your opinion. I, on the other hand, look at both sides. I have done some research on bees and I understand their importance to the ecosystem, I understand there is a shortage, and I also understand that a lot of cites are allowing bees. However; I also understand that I would be concerned if my neighbor had a huge bee hive in their backyard. Have you researched the law Mary? I know it sounds crazy, but we have laws in the city to allow people to live in harmony while in close proximity to each other. Right now Wisconsin law states that bee keeping is an agricultural activity and Port Washington law does not allow agricultural activity in the city. Now, if you are looking to amend or change the law, the city can have that discussion (and I think they are) to see if it makes sense. I will be asking my Alderman to vote "no". That's my opinion Mary, and you should respect that because I have done research and I am entitled to an opinion. I should not be labeled "ignorant" (one of the many derogatory words you have used) because we disagree. Signed, Sam H. Vedder
Nathan Flynn November 04, 2011 at 10:19 PM
251 traffic deaths occurred in Wisconsin in 2009 that had alcohol playing a factor in the crash. 17 deaths attributed nationwide to bee sting related anaphylaxis, none in Wisconsin. 31 deaths attributed to the family dog nationwide. Not sure if any were in Wisconsin.
Nathan Flynn November 04, 2011 at 10:23 PM
I'm hoping if the Common Council does not approve of the bees due to a safety issue, they will inform the public what they plan on doing about protecting us from bees that may come from Saukville, the Town of Port, the beekeeping houses near highway 60 in the Town of Grafton, Belgium, etc. Because bees travel 9 miles one way in search of food, the entire City of Port could theoretically be covered in bees from surrounding jurisdictions, putting residents at risk. In fact, how come our Common Council hasn't acted on this before? Those Highway 60 bees have been invading Port for decades!
Concerned November 08, 2011 at 07:42 AM
I live on the same block as the bee hive and I have to say I am against it. I am an eco freindly person but I beleive that everything has a place and this is not the place. While we cannot protect our kids from everything we do try to minimize their exposure to danger. I watch the kids from Port Catholic chase their balls into our yards on a regular basis. We also have Anita's Garden on our block. Possibility Playground can bee see from this street, Vetern's Park is down the hill, and Columbia Park is about 2 blocks away. Remember we are talking about 100,000 bee's in a very confined area. I don;t have a problem with bee;s as much as I have a problem with location. And yes we did see an increace in bee activity on our block. Add in the wasps and it's buzzing up here.
Bethel Metz November 08, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Concerned: Let me start by apologizing for the fact that we live so close in proximity and that you have not felt able to talk to me about your concerns. It makes me sad to think that a lot of your points could be discussed and worked through in a 10 minute exchange over a cup of coffee, but it has come to me drafting a reply to an anonymous neighbor on a website. We hosted a well-publicized "open house" (that was that big sign on our lawn) that would have been a great opportunity for this conversation. So I apologize that it has to be this way. Let me start by repeating that the Principal at St. Mary's, the man hired to, in part, ensure the safety of the students has no issues with the beehive. In fact, we are going to look at ways for the school to take advantage of it. We have two children who are actively involved in our hobby. If you live on the block, you are probably are aware that our yard is the converging point for the neighborhood kids, all of whom have been introduced to the hive and love it (and most of the parents have seen it as well). We have had a Fish Day party, a birthday party and numerous other gatherings since obtaining the hive-- all with no stings. Bees will travel up to 9 miles in search of pollen and nectar; that means that bees from a hive in Belgium, Fredonia, Grafton, 5 Corners, Random Lake and all points in between could sting someone in Port. And that is ignoring the fact that bees are docile creatures... (continued in next comment...)
Bethel Metz November 08, 2011 at 03:12 PM
(part two) My 10 year old daughter was pictured in the Press holding a honeybee, something she did on her own accord. Honey bees will only sting to defend their self or their hive, unlike wasps, hornets and yellow jackets, which are predators. In the 11 years I have lived in my home, a ball has never made it from the school playground to where my hive is located. Also, I have strategically planted to create a ball-proof barrier in between the playground and my hive, in case one were to make it there. The are schools across the globe who have hives on their grounds, some even have hives INSIDE their classrooms. With education, we learn what a necessity bees are to us, that they thrive in urban settings (lack of pesticides that are used on farms, longer growing periods with the varied food sources), and that the value in a classroom setting is unmatched. I would be curious to know if the bee increase you mention are honeybees, in fact, or if it could be bumblebees, yellow jackets, hornets or wasps. The majority of people that we show the hive to comment that they have never seen a bee that looks like ours before, which is due to the decline of the honeybee. If it was a honeybee, you are welcome for the pollination service. :) I garden directly under and around the hive with no issues whatsoever; honeybees are not defensive over food sources-- those are the other stinging insects. I invite you to come over/call with any other issues or to see it in person. 284-6876
Bethel Metz November 08, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Also, Charlie Koenen will be doing a "Beesentation" on Wednesday, Nov. 16th from 6:00-7:45 PM in the Community Room at the Niederkorn Library. Charlie has been a bee-educator for about 10 years, teaching beekeeping certification at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee and Sweetwater Organics (and soon at Boerner Botanical Gardens). He is providing this educational opportunity free of charge to the public. I strongly encourage anyone who has questions or issues to attend.

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