Despite objections from area beekeepers, Canal Winchester City Council unanimously approved new regulations March 5 for keeping a variety of animals on property within city limits.
The new rules apply to horses, goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks -- and bees.
The code changes establish the minimum acreage for keeping bees in the city at 1 acre, with no more than two hives per acre. A 6-foot high solid fence or dense hedge, known as a flyway barrier, must be installed near the entrance to the hives.
Woodsview Drive resident Tara Crawford told council members the new regulations mean her property is too small for beehives.
She said she recently attended training about beekeeping and suggested council members might want to consider doing the same thing.
"I would suggest at least one or two council members attend one of those meetings so they will have a better understanding of how noninvasive bees are," Crawford said. "I just think the responsible thing to do is educate yourself before you do something. Bees are good for the environment."
Barry Conrad, past-president and treasurer of the Central Ohio Beekeepers Association, has said the 1-acre restriction is not in line with other laws in other communities. Franklin County, for example, permits two beehives on one-quarter acre or less, he said. New York City has no restrictions.
While Crawford's property is smaller than the 1-acre minimum, the new zoning code does allow her to apply for a variance.
The new rules, which take effect 30 days after passage, require residents who meet the standards to apply for a permit. Those whose properties don't meet the requirements can seek a variance from the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission, with City Council having the final say.
Permits will be issued by the city's planning and zoning administrator, Andrew Moore, whose office drafted the new rules.
The permits could cost as much as $200; the process is similar to the one used by a resident who wants to install a swimming pool or deck.
The variance process also requires neighbors to be notified.
"What about those who don't want the animals next to them?" asked Councilman Mike Coolman. "This is fair for both sides of the equation. ... It forces our residents to get to know one another."
For a city with a history of agriculture, the new rules make sense, according to council President Bruce Jarvis. However, he called them a starting point.
"Nothing is really prohibited; it just allows the voices of the neighbors to be heard," Jarvis said. "I don't feel like there's anything wrong with that. There is a little caution being exercised here at leaving it at 1 acre. In the future, if we believe the demand is there and everyone's comfort level is up, then we can always address this in the future."
The code amendments approved during City Council's March 5 meeting establish other requirements as follows:
* The minimum acreage for horses and goats is 5 acres, with no more than one horse or four goats per 2.5 acres. Only mares or geldings can be kept on lots smaller than 10 acres.
* The minimum acreage for keeping chickens, ducks and rabbits is 1 acre, with no more than six chickens, ducks or rabbits per acre. Commercial uses are not permitted.