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Honeybee buzz dies down on Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain’s honeybee hive discussion is at a standstill as of the Feb. 4 town of Signal Mountain Council work session. Council members passed a motion to leave the town’s animal control ordinance, which includes information pertaining to honeybee hive placement, as is.

“If we had a large group of people committed to this for noble purposes then I could see going through the trouble of having to regulate it,” said Councilman Dick Gee.

The animal control ordinance states that “Housing of any type of animal in the front yard of residences is prohibited, including animal cages with or without the animals in them. Front yards are defined as the portion of the yard from the forward most front part of the residential structure to the street. This does not apply to small birdhouses.”

Before Gee made the motion to drop the subject, the Council talked through other options, such as including beehives along with the exception of birdhouses while advising beekeepers in the town to refer to the best management practices of the state of Tennessee.

In the end, however, the decision came down to the aesthetics of the town. According to the state’s best management practices for beekeeping, hives placed too close to property lines would need a barrier of six feet or higher blocking it from any neighbors or passersby, as well as signs that can be read from 50 feet notifying the public of the hive’s existence.

“Is this how we want our town to look?” asked Councilman Bill Wallace. “Signs you can read from 50 feet and barriers six feet and above?”

All council members voted to pass the motion that leaves the current animal control ordinance intact and beehives in the back yard. Beekeepers within the town of Signal Mountain who currently have their hives situated in their front yard may have to move their hives as a result.

Michelle Michaud, a Signal Mountain beekeeper who advocated for being allowed to keep her hive in her front yard because of the lack of sunlight in her backyard, said she does not yet know what she will do with her hive.

The hive originally discussed in October (see the article at http://community.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/nov/01/signal-mountain-abuzz-honeybee-dilemma) died this winter of what Michaud thinks was starvation because of an “early spring” and lack of honey flow, but she said she is currently “babysitting” a hive owned by the Tennessee Valley Bee Keeping Association, and that colony has grown in size.

“I was really impressed with our Town Council for taking this on. It shows them as progressive and forward thinking,” said Michaud. “I still have hope that Signal Mountain will lead the way in allowing hives in front yards.”

She added, however, that thinking of a beehive as an “eyesore” is “offensive,” stating that she often sees things such as cars, trailers and unused recreational equipment in the front yards of residents in her neighborhood.

“I’d rather look at a beehive than a car parked in a front yard,” she said.

After the motion passed, Councilwoman Annette Allen said she would like to revisit the conversation sometime in the future.

“It’s not just a fun, whimsical hobby,” she said. “It actually has a service that benefits us all, so we should consider that.”

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