Town Board reluctantly says no to bees

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city had its chickens and Tuesday, the Town Board dealt with bees.

Not bees directly, of course – although there were a few boxelder bugs flitting around the Town Hall – but a request from town resident Earl Ney to keep bees on his home property.

The resident of Aurora Road explained that he would like to raise honeybees – which are in short supply in the state of Wisconsin – on his 1.66-acre property.

He presented signatures from all but one of his neighbors supporting his request. “Honeybees don’t sting unless they’re really provoked,” Ney noted, who added that the city of Madison allows bees to be kept in residential neighborhoods, with certain restrictions.

“The city of Appleton is considering it as well,” added Town Constable Warren Kalk. “A lot of cities are starting to look at this too, like chickens.”

Zoning Commission member Janice Abraham pointed out that the town’s current zoning ordinances only allow beekeeping in property that is zoned agricultural. Ney’s property, although it is located next to a farm, is zoned residential.

“We’re all in favor of bees but our ordinance says it has be zoned A-1, which requires 35 acres,” Supervisor Glenn Kruschke added.

“Where do you start and where do you stop,” asked Supervisor Roger Rortvedt. If the town were to give Ney permission to keep bees, “what if the next guy wants chickens or a lot of dogs?”

Supervisor Gene Blindauer noted that the town has not revised its zoning ordinances in more than half a dozen years and that they could stand some changes.

He pointed out that the state no longer mandates that parcels zoned agricultural be a minimum of 35 acres.

Town Attorney Jim Hughes suggested that the board could explore several possibilities, including allowing bees as a conditional use in residential zones.

Ney explained that he would need to purchase his bees in the next couple of weeks in order to raise them this year or else have to wait until next year.

Supervisor Ray Gremminger suggested that he could set up his beehives on his neighbor’s farmland if the neighbor agrees.

“If you’re pretty passionate about your business, sometimes you’ve got to put up with the inconvenience,” of keeping the bees elsewhere, he told Ney. “We’re in favor of it, but we’ve got to look at everything. Like Roger said, if we allowed everything the town of Plymouth would be a mess. It’s really not an easy fix for us.”

The board postponed approving a certified survey map for Marlene Machut’s property on Fairview Drive (County O) just north of the city limits, also over a zoning issue.

Realtor Bill Cain explained that Machut wants to split the farmhouse on County O from the rest of the property, which would continue to be rented out for farming.

But both the existing lot and the proposed new farm lot are less than 35 acres, which is the town’s minimum for agricultural zoning – even though the lot now (which is also less than 35 acres) is zoned agricultural.

“This is already a non-conforming use because it’s not zoned properly and you’d be creating two lots where there was one, both of them not conforming,” Hughes told the board.

Cain said he would bring the land division back to the board next month along with a rezoning request.

The board changed the date of their April meeting to Wednesday, April 3, as Tuesday, April 2 – the normal meeting date – is Election Day. The annual meeting will be held Tuesday, April 16.

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