Beekeepers oppose planned restrictions in Findlay

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When beekeepers heard the buzz that Findlay was considering controls on honeybees, they felt stung by the proposed rules.

Jeff Allison of Clinton Road, who has lived in Findlay for 60 years, said the regulations would dampen his pursuit and would be "off-course" because the Clinton area on the fringe of Pittsburgh International Airport always has been rural.

"There's no reason to change it," Mr. Allison told township supervisors June 12.

Planning director Chris Caruso said the proposed bee rules aim to protect residents from unwanted bees -- especially in densely populated areas -- while allowing beekeepers to continue their activity.

"We are just trying to make sure they coexist," he said.

The proposal would require placing hives at least 50 feet from neighboring properties and installing 6-foot-high protective barriers called flyway fences.

No more than four hives would be allowed on lots of less than a half-acre.

Mr. Allison keeps about 20 hives on portable trailers. As the seasons change, he gets permission from other landowners to move his honeybees to their properties.

"We try to put bees where there's good food, where they have something to eat, and that way they'll make better honey, and more of it," Mr. Allison said later.

Hank Brinzer of Moody Lane in Clinton said his neighbors were supportive when he began beekeeping this year on his one-acre property, with the goal of helping honeybee survival and pollinating his garden.

Township officials shouldn't control bees, he said.

"I hope they just let it go," Mr. Brinzer said. "We don't need a restriction on bees."

Board members voted 3-0 to postpone their decision and revisit the issue July 10.

Two beekeeping professionals, invited to the meeting by Mr. Allison, expressed their concerns about the proposed rules.

Stephen Repasky, president of the nonprofit Burgh Bees, said research shows that 10 feet is plenty of buffer space when a honeybee hive is placed properly. He said flyway fences aren't necessary under all circumstances.

Mr. Repasky said education is the key to overcoming fears about living near honeybees, which are generally docile.

Lee Miller, past president of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, said the township should minimize regulations.

Chairman Tom Gallant said the board will consider the beekeepers' comments and review new information, such as the proposed bee regulations that Mr. Repasky recently helped write for Forest Hills.

"The problem we have is trying to address what's OK rurally out here in Clinton [compared to] residential areas," Mr. Gallant said.

Supervisor Janet Craig said she and other people who are allergic to bee stings desire protections, including a provision for warning signs near hives.

Findlay's proposed ordinance also covers chickens and other backyard animals.

Mr. Caruso said the document combines new and existing regulations on residential areas but does not change what's allowed on farms or in agricultural areas, where an array of commercial animal activities are permitted.

Residents in most zoning districts can keep chickens, bees, rabbits and other backyard animals for personal use if they follow certain guidelines.

Up to 10 hens can be kept in a backyard coop at least 10 feet from any lot line and 10 feet from any home. Roosters are prohibited.

A maximum of three outdoor rabbits may be enclosed at least 10 feet from any property line.

Neighboring North Fayette had discussed possible regulations on chickens and other backyard animals in late 2011. But the proposal met with opposition and never made it to the supervisors for a vote.


Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:


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