Hatfield delays decision on backyard bees
The ordinance will be voted on at the borough council's Oct. 17 meeting.
After a marathon, two-hour discussion Wednesday night, Hatfield's Borough Council decided to delay voting on a regulation on beekeeping within its borders.
The five-member council said it was delaying the decision due to questions about the wording in the proposed ordinance. The council planned to take action on the proposed bill on Oct. 17.
The proposed legislation was prompted after several residents on School Street lobbed complaints against Keith Snyder, an amateur beekeeper who tends to 14 backyard apiaries.
Over the summer, Snyder's neighbors complained to the borough, saying the volume of bees on their small, dense street was too high.
Catherine Harper, Hatfield's solicitor, said last week that the proposed ordinance was modeled after similar legislation in Forest Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh. In its current form, it would limit residential beekeepers to three hives for every 2,000 square feet of property, and require the purchase of an annual borough license for beekeeping, among other measures.
Council President John H. Weierman stressed Wednesday that the ordinance was not singling out Snyder, and was instead concerned with the "safety and welfare" of borough residents.
Under Hatfield's proposed ordinance, which was slightly modified at Wednesday's meeting, Snyder would be allowed nine hives on his property, which county records show is about 7,400 square feet.
The ordinance would also come with a "nominal fee" for the borough's annual license, according to the council members.
In Pennsylvania, there is no state legislation limiting beekeeping. Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, said all beekeepers must be licensed with the state, have their apiaries registered and be subject to inspection twice a year. These regulations are in place to control diseases that affect bees and protect the overall health of an insect that is vital to agriculture.
Anything beyond that is left to local government.
Snyder said his hives are registered with the state Department of Agriculture, and they were inspected in June after one of his neighbors filed a complaint. He passed with a "clean bill of health," he said.
Mark Antunes, a master beekeeper and former president of the Montgomery County Beekeeper's Association, said he believes Snyder "is being highly responsible and managing things well."
He added that municipal ordinances on beekeeping "are the exception, not the rule," and are usually caused by misplaced fears from nearby residents.
"When you ask about what's the 'right number of bees,' there is no state-established number per acre or square foot or property size," Antunes said. "It comes down to what the ability of the person is, what the conditions are like, and what they are doing."