Things were looking up. We were optimistic.
Heck, we even had a little fun with it: For Trick-or-Treat, Mike and I wore our beekeeping veils around town with the kids. People honked at us, waved, gave us the thumb’s-up, stopped us to talk about it, made jokes, and were very supportive. No one said anything negative about it at all.
I went online to look at our City Council’s agenda for the November 2nd meeting to see if there was anything on it that we needed to be aware of. Sure enough, under the Planning Commission part, it said, “Development of Regulations Regarding Beekeeping.” Silly me, I thought it was just an update from the Planning Commission on their decision to proceed with developing an ordinance. Either way, Mike and I made plans to attend the meeting… just in case.
First clue that there was more to it than that: during the first time for public comments, one of the Aldermen spoke up regarding the heat that the City Attorney was getting in the editorial in the Press and in “numerous comments on Patch articles.” He said that he didn’t have to fight the City Attorney’s fight, but that he wanted to make sure it was known that the City Attorney acts on the direction of the Council, or in this case, a City employee.
The meeting proceeded, and I felt an increasing amount of anxiety as we got closer to the agenda item (which, as luck would have it, was the second-to-last item of business). When it came time, it was announced that they were looking for the City Council to approve the City Administrator and the City Planner developing an ordinance regarding beekeeping. Yes, you read that right. They had to vote on whether or not to allow City officials to research and to draft an ordinance. And there Mike and I sat. Completely unprepared. No support. And now unable to speak at this point in the meeting since business was underway.
*Insert colorful language here.* (I guess I will go with) Craptacular.
I wish the minutes of the meeting we up. I wish, I wish, I wish, because God help me, there isn’t much I can remember other than elevating blood pressure and anxiety.
The same Alderman who spoke at the beginning of the meeting began by saying that he was inclined to go along with his “Libertarian side” and let us have our bees, “our right to swing our fist ends at his jaw.” He then read facts that he found on the internet from, what he said, Mayo Clinic and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). These facts included that beehives are not recommended in cities, near children, near schools, near buildings; that a hive can go from docile to aggressive in 40 days; that playing around a hive or lawnmowers can cause defensiveness. He also said that, “Someday my ‘yes’ vote could lead to a Port Catholic kid getting stung and going into anaphylactic shock.” He was referring to the school across the street. He also stated that the USDA recommends that hives be no closer than 3 miles to each other; that caused the City Administrator to note that, with that understanding, there could only be one hive in Port Washington.
Another Alderman said he felt that bees were better suited in areas zoned for agricultural use, not in the city. A third Alderman stated that he is torn and wants to see what kind of ordinance will be drafted. A fourth and fifth Aldermen were supportive of moving forward with drafting an ordinance. And the other two Aldermen were absent.
As you can see from the Ozaukee Press article and the Patch article, the Mayor was very outspoken in his support of an ordinance (not just supporting drafting one). I guess if there was a ray of sunshine in this meeting, the Mayor’s comments would be it. He has said in previous interviews that he has done more research on beekeeping than he did for papers in college. He has accepted and read literature that I have sent him. What more can I ask for?
Ultimately, the City Council approved the drafting of an ordinance. At the end of the meeting, before adjournment, there was another time for public comments. I managed to collect myself enough to get up and speak. I thanked the Aldermen who attended our open house, and invited all of the Council members to call me, email me or stop by if they wanted to see the hive, if they had questions, or if they wanted information. I offered my assistance, and reiterated Charlie Koenen’s offer to assist in the fact-finding or in the actual drafting of the ordinance. I stated that bees can travel up to 9 miles in search of food, that unless you ban all hives within a 9 mile radius of schools and parks, there will be bees, not to mention yellow jackets and wasps. I spoke about a school in Boston that has a bee hive inside the classroom with the exit/entrance points being basically on the playground– 9 years and only 1 sting. As much as I wanted to debate point-by-point, I was completely unprepared, shocked, and defeated.
It was my hope that the drafted ordinance would be coming through the Planning Commission, allowing them to tweak it, if need be, and to put their seal of approval on it before it went back to the Council, but it appears as that won’t be the case. An email I received Friday the 4th from the City Administrator says that once the ordinance is developed, it will be going to the Council, probably at one of the December meetings.
If we encountered this much resistance to the idea of even writing a proposed ordinance, what are we going to face when the ordinance is presented for discussion and ultimately a vote?!?!
Like I said: well, ain’t that just a kick in the pants.