header image
<- Back to Guest Blogs

Working with your Village/Town to address ordinances against bees - Update 1

Posted by: Bryan Mathie on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 9:16:00 am

Wow, yesterday was a busy day with regards to all three of my endeavors.

First of all - I reached out to Maywood to follow up and they came to the conclusion that they do not NOT allow bees, so residences can keep them in the village.  SO I pumped my fist, whooped a victory cry and thought I was ready to have a great season.  THEN I found out that because I am not a resident I am looked at by the village as a business.  Huh?  So I have to file a business license with the village and some of my earlier "education" to them about how dilligent I am with following the rules like registering my hives with the state almost backfired.  So now I have to get the apiary set up and have an inspection with a village inspector whom I am sure knows nothing of bees or what to look for, and IF I pass inspection, I have to apply for a business license and include proof from the state that I registered.  That last part freaked me out at first because I hadn't registered this location yet so it isn't on file.  But when I pulled out my State registration I realized it was for ME as a beekeeper and not about the location(s) I am keeping bees.  So Whew!  I can work with the owner of the location in Maywood to get it ready and call over the inspector (which is literally right next door) and get this started.  Lesson is, first treat everyone with patience and respect, you never know how long or difficult this will be.  I almost lost my cool with the village person when I thought this wouldn't happen this year.  Secondly, just because you are allowed to keep bees, if you aren't a resident, you may need to jump through other hoops - ask or you may be surprised in a bad way.

So with Maywood moving forward I reached out to my own village.  Seems the village manager has been reaching out to the Park District (which I am trying to work with) and talking to the village trustees.  Good news is they are all actually kind of excited about this.  They like the idea.  But . . . they aren't in the mood to move forward with ALL residences.  In my last entry I think I briefly talked about going for the Community Park district as a way of circumventing municipal code as they can work on a different set of rules.  The Exectutive Director of the Park District loves bees and is very excited to potentially offer a beekeeping class with hands on experience in an apiary - all lead by me.  Giving me local space for bees, revenue teaching, they get a unique offer which very few park districts have (none offer hands on work) and I get all the honey.  Sounds like a nice win all around.  Just found out, though, that they don't have immunity to all the ordinances and that the village is keen on letting me experiment with keeping bees in Lagrange Park AT the park district.  Then they will review and see if they can get their "conservative" minds wrapped around letting residents practice Backyard Beekeeping.  So next steps - after budget season for the park district, we need to put together a proposal/curriculum that we can put in front of the village to see if they are amenable to changing the ordinance to allow bees on park district land.  That will take some time and it won't happen in time for this season.  Maybe later this summer I could move a couple of hives, but nothing like I had thought.  In my mind it has to become a longer term play to get bees into my village and the park district is the avenue I have to make that happen.  But it is going to take some work and patience.  In the meantime I have to get my hives ready for the season.  I am going from 3 (and some nucs) to 8 and some Queen Castles/nucs.  Trying my hand at raising some local queens and having backups for the season to see how they do.  The 3 Apiaries I was trying to set up were all between 1-3 miles from each other which would have been almost perfect for DCAs and ensuring I had good diversity of Drones.

Key learnings with the village:

  1. Govt moves at Glacial speed - expect it to take a full year to get results
  2. Politic - talk to people, get to know them and ask good questions around what is motivating them to allow bees, what issues/problems do they see with the proposal.  Ellicit their help in the process by asking "Is there anything you can see I need to do to help this along?" or is there anyone I should be aware of that might not be open to this proposal and maybe I could reach out to them and see if I can win them over?"  Think about it like you are building a partnership - you have to find out What's in it for them other than more work.  One of the biggest hurdles I was told of in the beginningof my conversations was to write the ordinance.  But when I spoke to the Assistant Village Manager yesterday, she said it "would be simple to write the ordinance and get it passed."  Ugh, I was told that was expensive and the hard part.  It really isn't - it is gaining momentum, showing you have knowledge and are a good ambassador to Beekeeping and gaining partnership with the village.  That is the key
  3. Lastly (at least for now) I think you should go in with a well laid out plan, research your surrounding villages and ordinances, talk to other villages that allow bees and come to the table with your supporting documentation.  JUST DON'T Vomit it up all over the place.  Ask questions, understand their concerns and experiences, find your advocates and then use that information appropriately to support and educate.

I have to now reach out to all my fellow beekeepers and find new resources to craft my class on Beginning Beekeeping and figure out how it is going to go.  Thankfully we have some great folks in our club who have done this already and are generous with their time and resources.  Just one of many huge benefits to belonging to Willbees!

If anyone has questions or wishes to talk through their plan of working with their village to allow bees, I would be happy to discuss my learnings.  I will continue to add information as I learn through this process.  I think as a club, we might start amassing some data, reports, articles about keeping bees in urban spaces and other articles debunking the myths many people subscribe to that scare them about what we do.  Sounds like a good idea to me.

Heres to a good Beekeeping season.  Snowing outside as I write this. . . Damn do I want the season to go into full swing!  Packages are only a week or 2 away!



Private comment posted on February 5, 2018 at 1:15:32 pm

Leave a Comment

Become a Member

Becoming a member of the Will County Beekeepers Association has a growing list of benefits.
Join Now! or Renew

Association Meetings


Meetings are generally 7:00pm-9pm
Will County Farm Bureau
100 Manhattan Rd
Joliet, IL 60433
Show map