There was no swarm of controversy Tuesday as Spokane County commissioners agreed to new rules pertaining to beekeeping in unincorporated areas of the area.
In fact, according to Planning Director John Pederson, folks on both sides of the issue are as sweet as honey.
County planners have spent over a year buzzing around rules and building a hive of consensus among beekeepers, farmers and orchardists to develop the amended rules, which will go before county commissioners for final approval in the near future without a public hearing.
A hearing was deemed not necessary by Board Chairman Al French and Commissioner Todd Mielke – Commissioner Mark Richard was not present – as there seems to be little controversy over the proposed law, which was given a unanimous recommendation by the county Planning Commission on May 12.
“It was a good collaborative process that addresses the concerns of the stakeholders,” Pederson told the commissioners.
The issue has come a long way from over a year ago, when Planning Commission members voted 5-0 to table the matter indefinitely in order for planning staff to sit down with beekeepers and others who would be affected by any amendments.
Specifically, the loudest concerns were heard from those living in residential areas who wished to keep bees for hobby and honey-producing reasons. Currently, the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley both allow beekeeping in residential zones.
In Spokane Valley, hobby beekeeping is defined as 25 or fewer hives. In Spokane, up to eight hives are allowed in single-family residential zones, subject to setback, fencing and other rules.
The new rules would pertain to all zones within the unincorporated county, with “performance standards” applying in residential and commercial zones and, to a lesser extent, in agricultural “rural resource” zones, Pederson said.
No one spoke against the new rules at the Planning Commission meeting, Pederson added, who said stakeholders are “happy with the standards.”
Rules under the new ordinance would include:
- The number of colonies allowed is limited to two for the first 4,356 of lot area and one for every 4,356 of lot feet after that – with no limit per lot – in residential areas.
- Beehives shall be setback a minimum of 25 feet from any abutting side or rear property line or public right-of-way.
- Beekeeping for educational or research purposes as an accessory use to an educational institution in a commercial zone is allowed.