ST. PETER — The St. Peter City Council tabled a decision on whether to allow beekeeping within city limits Monday, pushing the vote back by two weeks.

The decision came after council members discussed several changes to a proposed city code modification which would permit beekeeping if residents met certain requirements. Possible changes include how much and how often to charge for permits and requiring signage.

With some council members indicating support for beekeeping in the city and others indicating opposition, it’s unclear how likely the proposed modified city code is to pass at the April 26 meeting.

Allowing beekeeping previously came before the council in 2017. It was voted down at the time.

Before becoming a council member in 2020, Emily Bruflat was among the residents who sought the city code change back in 2017. At the time, she and her husband had to remove beehives from their yard when they found out they weren’t allowed.

She voiced strong support for allowing beekeeping Monday, saying it would show St. Peter is proactive on environmental sustainability.

“I feel great confidence that this would be an overwhelmingly positive move for St. Peter to make,” she said. “I’ve heard no convincing argument against it.”

Honey bees play a vital role in pollinating plants. Their work helps provide food sources for other creatures, as well as helping flowering plants flourish.

Many cities do permit residents to keep bees, although it’s far from universal across Minnesota. Council members who indicated opposition to the idea Monday cited safety among their concerns.

“I think having bees in town is a big safety hazard and I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Council member Ed Johnson.

A resident who opposed the proposal spoke during the meeting and brought up potential allergic reactions as an issue. Ken Rossow acknowledged honey bees’ importance to the environment, but added they “also need to be in the proper place.”

“That could be a serious medical situation if a child were to incur a bee sting,” he said.

The second resident who spoke on the issue to the council, Peter Westre, was in favor of beekeeping. He called the risk to people “very minimal,” saying only about 50 deaths per year in the U.S. are from bee stings.

“I think if we have to we could ask beekeepers to post signs,” he said. “Your home is your home. Your yard is your yard. You should be able to have some hobbies.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about 62 deaths per year across the U.S. from hornet, wasp and bee stings between 2000-2017. For comparison, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found riding lawn mowers caused about 90 deaths per year between 2008-2010.

Bruflat said she’s heard from dozens of people in support of beekeeping compared to little opposition. In contrast, Council member Stephen Grams said the vast majority of the people he’s asked about it opposed it.

Mayor Chuck Zieman, who proposed tabling the motion until the next meeting, cited research showing a large percentage of beehives fail and it’s almost always caused by the keepers. He questioned why they’d allow beekeeping if the bees are unlikely to survive, as it would be against the law to treat them in a cruel or inhumane way.

If passed, prospective beekeepers would need to meet seven requirements in order to receive a permit. The requirements include:

  • Providing a beehive with the entrance facing the applicant’s house
  • Keeping a maximum of two hives in a rear yard
  • Hives must be at least 25 feet from any neighboring structures
  • Hives must be set back at least 7 feet from any property line
  • Hives must have a barrier at least 6-feet high and 10-feet wide on any side of the property within 25 feet of the property line
  • Applicant must complete course on beekeeping from accredited institution, or have receipt of completed and maintained certification
  • Applicant must have a source of water within 10 feet of hive

Council members were also undecided on how much the permit should cost, how much an annual renewal should cost and how often the city should inspect the hives. Council members plan to discuss the matter more during a workshop on April 19.

Initially, the proposal called for $50 costs for the permit and then $50 renewal fees each year to cover annual inspections. Some council members want to see the renewal cost dropped down and inspections only initially required.

The decision would be moot, however, if council members decide not to allow beekeeping in the first place when the matter comes before them again later this month.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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