River Forest moves toward beekeeping law

Beekeepers in town buzzing over new ordinance

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Staff Reporter

To bee-keep or not to bee-keep? River Forest village trustees worked toward an answer on the practice Nov. 13, after a draft ordinance to officially legalize the practice landed on their desks. 

Beekeeping is not expressly prohibited in River Forest; its code of ordinances is silent on the matter. It became an issue after a resident complained about a neighbor's hive.

"Let's just try this and if there's some issues we can come back to it," said Trustee Carmela Corsini. 

Once a revised ordinance lands on the next village board agenda on Nov. 27, it will presumably be passed, based on the majority of trustees' positive remarks, and the River Forest Sustainability Commission's thorough vetting. 

The seven-member sustainability commission spent four months reviewing Oak Park, Forest Park and Riverside's beekeeping ordinances, interviewing local beekeepers, observing the hives at the Garfield Park Conservatory and talking with experts. 

 "Most people who are nervous about bees are misinformed," said Sue Crothers, a commission member who said her husband keeps bees. "Replace the word 'bee' with 'dog.'" 

The draft ordinance contains a number of conditions, which aim to protect native pollinators and flora as well as neighbors.

River Forest's beekeepers will have 30 days to register their hives with the village and the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and pay a $25 permit fee to cover the village's administrative costs of regulating the practice. 

They must also alert neighbors about their hobby, provide them with more information about honey bees and post signs that include their permit number on their property. 

Beekeepers will also need to construct a fence at least four feet high, in an effort to deter bees from flying into neighboring properties. Trustees are still debating over the exact fence height required. 

"Personally, I don't have any fence around my bees and I don't have any problems," said Marcin Matelski, head beekeeper at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. 

Residents and institutions will be limited to two hives, except for Dominican University, which has four hives that will be grandfathered in. 

Neighbors allergic to bee stings can provide the village with a doctor's note, and prospective neighboring beekeepers will be barred from the practice. Those who suffer from apiphobia — or a fear of bees — can attend a free class at Dominican about the practice during the spring, summer and fall months. 

Trustee Respicio Vazquez said he's in favor of adding additional restrictions to prospective beekeepers living near those with apiphobia.

Trustee Michael Gibbs also wants the village look further liability issues. If a beekeepers bees sting a neighbor, he wondered, can the village be held liable? 

Matelski said he is willing to serve as a consultant to help River Forest officials manage concerns. Harry Patterson, an Oak Park beekeeper who said he offers instructional courses on bees, can also help officials. 

Illinois' Department of Agriculture also has eight inspectors who will come to the village and inspect hives for free. Those whose hives are found to be out of compliance can be hit with a $500 fine.

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Richard Fischer from oak park  

Posted: November 14th, 2017 4:15 PM

Regarding liability, I'd like to know if you get stung by a bee how you determine where it came from.

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