The Oak Park Board of Health last week unanimously voted that the village should legalize beekeeping within its borders. But the village board will have the final say, possibly sometime in the next few weeks.
The health board voted 4-0 to make the recommendation in favor of beekeeping on Oct. 5, after hearing testimony from residents, the Illinois Beekeepers Association and a medical consultant to the health department. No one at the meeting spoke against beekeeping, though the village did receive a couple of negative e-mails about it, said Margaret Provost-Fyfe, director of the health department.
One of those e-mailers was Oak Parker Tracey Dummer, who says she is allergic to bees. She urged the health board to retain beekeeping as a nuisance under Oak Park law.
“As we have pretty small house lots in Oak Park, it would be difficult to avoid bees if a next door neighbor decided to set up a bee hive to cultivate honey,” she wrote on Sept. 23.
Bianca Ribaudo, meanwhile, wrote in encouraging the health board to endorse legal beekeeping here.
“Bees are not dangerous unless provoked,” she wrote. “I think it would be great to allow beekeeping in our town.”
Provost-Fyfe hopes that the recommendation will quickly make its way to the village board. The Oak Park Health Department will look to other communities that have legalized beekeeping — such as Evanston, Salt Lake City and Seattle — in suggesting ways to regulate the practice locally.
“We’d like to get this done in a fairly timely fashion, so I would say in the next few weeks we’ll have something that will go forward to the board of trustees,” she said. If the board votes yes, the recommendation would then be bounced back to village hall’s legal department to craft an ordinance, Provost-Fyfe said.
Under current village law, Oak Park considers maintaining beehives a “nuisance.” But village resident Debbie Becker wants to change that, and she and others have been pushing for a change since last November, hoping Oak Park officials sweeten to the idea.
Becker, who is also a Wednesday Journal employee, was satisfied with last week’s vote, though she’s pessimistic that the village board will make its determination soon.
“I’m happy about the decision and I hope that the village trustees will be as enthusiastic about it,” she said.