I was talking to Darien the other night about my latest endeavor - working with not only my village but one other village to change their ordinances against keeping bees. So Darien suggested I capture what I have done and how it has/is working. I'll give you what I have, but at this time, nothing is resolved. But I am still hopful and both villages I am working with are interested in working with me at this time.
So let me start with my own village - Lagrange Park. Currently the ordinance explicidly bans bees in the village.
Let me start with my thoughts going in - in general, I am going in with hope and optimism. I am not coming in to do battle or get them to see their error. If I go in that way, it is over before it began. Most of the people we have to ask are just doing their job and I am just one more person asking them to do more work. So I have to go in knowing that I am borrowing their time. Build a small relationship, make sincere conversation. They are in a government job and more work means more work. . . not more money. Be nice, polite and know that your reqest doesn't mean a pile of doody to them. Most people are very curious and receptive to the idea of beekeeping. But they have a lot of questions, misperceptions and think all bees (hornets, wasps, yellowjackets) are the same as honey bees.
.Also, I position myself from the perspective of education and environmentalism - it keeps from looking like I am self-serving. I historically ask questions about their experience around beekeeping, ask for a little guidance or advice on how to navigate the system. I find that eliciting their help in something obviously important like saving bees helps get anyone interested. I have found the village managers, general front desk person and even the security very interested when I let them know I am a beekeeper trying to get bees allowed in the village.
Step 1 - go to your village website and look up the ordinances. Become familiar with your village manager and code inforcement officer. Sometimes the office of community development is involved. Do your research! I looked up the ordinances of all the surrounding villages to find those that allowed by ordinances, allowed without ordinances and banned by ordinance. That "allowed without ordinances" is a key one. Many villages do not have an ordinance that explicitly bans beekeeping. However, when you talk to the village manager they are aware that there are residences that keep bees and they are fine with that. Other villages don't have ordinances but say that they don't allow it. If I understand how law/ordinances work, unless it explicitly says you can't do something, you can. but it doesn't mean the village wants to acknowlege it due to percieved liability. But if it isn't allowed by ordinance, you need to ask. Don' assume.
Why is this imporant, you ask? The village manager wants to know that I have done my research. They also haven't done the research to know which villages allow, which don't and who to connect with for questions. I made list of all the surrounding villages, village officials I have spoken to and their view on beekeeping. This has helped me tremendously in having conversations with village officials. There are two local villages to me that allow beekeeping other than the city of Chicago - Clarendon Hills and Oak Park. Their ordinances are well written and address the key issues I see in beekeeping ina urban situation. There are 4 local villages around me that although don't have an ordinance allowing or not allowing. But in talking to the village manager, they have no issue with beekeeping. Each village said they have not had any issues/problems with beekeeping. Which is a good thing to be aware of in your conversations.
On the subject of liability - that is an interesting question that comes up a lot during my discussions and to keep this blog short, I will address perceived liability and public safety in another blog
Step 2 - Reach out to the village manager and begin a conversation about beekeeping in your village. I got to know Laurie Cedillo, village manager or Lagrange Park and asked for her thoughts and concerns. We had a good conversation that lead to another avenue - the park district has different rules and isnt' subject to the same ordinances. I will talk about that endeavor later in this blog. She also helped me with next steps in proposing to the village. Good to have someone to help even if they are not necessarily for/opposed to my proposal.
Step 3 - this step depends. Laurie asked me to put together a quick bullet pointed proposal to the village about what I wanted. Another village didn't ask me for anything. They went to their legal council and want to get back to me. We'll see how that goes. It give me very little control on my part - whichh I don't like iat all. I will post my proposal in a later blog. I would be happy to help anyone put a proposal together or offer my own as a tempate if it would help.
Step 4 - I went to the village meeting on March 22. I had 3 minutes to present my brief thoughts and remind the village of the proposal I submitted. My timer went off and the board kept asking questions. The president even started using bad bee puns. So I know the meeting went well. The president of the village asked me to meet him for lunch and the village manager
So we are on the next step - The village president wants to talk further about it. The village manager wants to talk to some other villages that allow it and look at the ordinances of 2 villages that allow it (which I provided copies of those ordinances to her). My follow up is with both of them to set up some time to meet and see where they want to go.
Topics for the next several Blogs:
1. Village of Maywood - beekeeping
2. Community Park District of Lagrange Park
3. Liability/public safety
4. Village of LaGrange Park - continued. Lessons learned. Need to get other beekeeping organizations involved at the appropriate time.