Kane County considers first beekeeping regulations

  • Kane County officials are contemplating rules on how close beehives can be to neighboring property or roads, among other issues with beekeeping.

    Kane County officials are contemplating rules on how close beehives can be to neighboring property or roads, among other issues with beekeeping. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Posted1/19/2022 5:20 AM

Kane County officials will consider beekeeping regulations for the first time after a handful of recurring "nuisance" issues with beekeepers.

The first draft of possible rules indicates beekeepers who live in unincorporated areas would get a honey of a deal compared to their peers who live in municipalities with beekeeping rules.

 

Beekeeping rules first hit the county's radar in 2016. That's about the time when residential beekeeping gained popularity throughout the suburbs. Several municipalities began adopting laws designed to keep residential hives from becoming anything for neighbors to worry over.

With those local rules, beekeepers found themselves registering their hives and paying fees to city governments for the first time. When Kane County asked them for feedback on what county regulations should look like, the response was clear: Please don't regulate us.

Kane County officials decided to forgo regulation.

Since then, county officials say they've run up against a few incidents involving what county Development Director Mark VanKerkhoff deemed "extreme beekeeping," where beekeepers have more hives than seem to be a good fit for the size of the property.

The COVID-19 pandemic fueled more complaints as unincorporated residents installed backyard swimming pools while quarantining at home. To the dismay of those new pool owners, bees found themselves with additional water sources.

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The result is a package of regulations introduced Tuesday to address such problems. At the heart of the rules are limits on the number of hives any residential property could host.

At the most restrictive, residential properties of one-quarter to one-half acre could have no more than two apiaries or bee colonies. On the least restrictive side, properties of 5 acres or more would have no restrictions.

VanKerkhoff said his team established those limits by looking at regulations in local cities and villages and doubling the number of hives allowed.

County officials are also contemplating rules on how close hives can be to neighboring property or roads. Fencing or hedges, as well as signs notifying the people about active beehives on the property, are also potential regulations.

All regulations would be reactive, meaning county officials would get involved with beekeeping in unincorporated areas only if they received a complaint about a particular set of hives.

"We get a call maybe once a year," VanKerkhoff said. "It's really low-level. That's why staff is recommending a nuisance approach."

The public will get another chance to weigh in on the potential rules when they are presented to the county board's Agriculture Committee at 10 a.m. Thursday at the county government center in Geneva.

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