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Wauwatosa drafts ordinance to allow urban beekeeping

April 30, 2014

Upon interest from residents, city staff members are drafting an ordinance that would allow beekeeping in Wauwatosa. The community development committee requested the draft at its meeting Tuesday, April 29, where several bee enthusiasts made their cases.

"The reason a lot of people want to do this is environmentally, bees are extremely important and in extremely difficult circumstances right now," said resident Frieda Payne at the meeting.

Payne said if bee hives are sided properly, bees cause little disturbance, flying up and over surrounding residences, coming down for pollen and going back up to return to the hive.

"People walking down the street are not going to be impacted by a backyard bee hive if it's sided properly," she said.

CDC Chair Bobby Pantuso requested the committee look at the issue on behalf of a constituent. Earlier this year, Wauwatosa NOW reported resident Tosan Mykl Dettlaff was ordered to move his hive out of the city by the Wauwatosa Health Department. He asked Pantuso to support an ordinance allowing his hobby.

Pantuso said he wanted to see an ordinance based closely on Milwaukee's ordinance allowing beekeeping. He thought it should have a requirement that beekeepers complete an education course and a requirement to notify neighbors before a hive goes in. Whether neighbors would be able to veto a hive would have to be determined.

Charlie Koenen, a bee educator who has helped set up hives in Milwaukee and had a hand in its ordinance, offered his assistance to Wauwatosa. He said in addition to aiding a dying population, urban beekeeping nourishes plants in the neighborhood.

"It builds community because you'll see within two miles of the bees, everything will bloom more than it has," Koenen said.

The committee's only action on the subject April 29 was to ask staff to draft a potential ordinance, but Alderwoman Allison Byrne did note that she supported the idea of beekeeping in the city.

"I think this has a fabulous environmental impact, and it helps we have people familiar with rules we need to enforce to make this successful," she said.

According to a memo from Assistant City Attorney Eileen Miller-Carter, other communities in the state that allow beekeeping include Milwaukee, Pewaukee, Madison and Green Bay. But many do not, such as Brookfield, Elm Grove, Greenfield and the North Shore suburbs.

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