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JANESVILLE

Janesville residents now are legally allowed to keep beehives in their backyards.

The city council approved an amended ordinance Monday after a lengthy discussion, which included a failed motion to deny the ordinance and a public hearing that supported the ordinance, although some speakers quibbled with certain requirements.

Prospective beekeepers, some of whom might already be operating backyard hives, must submit a $50 application fee to the city for a permit. Permits can be renewed annually for $25.

A few beekeeping aficionados said these fees would be cost-prohibitive for some. Other area cities were less expensive, they said.

But overall they believed the ordinance would be a good way to promote pollination and bee health. Colony collapse disorder, which can be caused by infection, habitat loss, pesticide use and other factors, has decimated bee populations in the United States in recent decades.

Most residential lots are allowed to keep up to two colonies of honey bees in the backyard. Hives within 20 feet of a property line must have a 6-foot-tall barrier to encourage a higher flight path.

Hives cannot be located within 150 feet of a “sensitive site,” such as schools, playgrounds or medical facilities. Residents with allergy concerns can apply to designate their homes as sensitive sites.

Council member Jens Jorgensen, in his last council meeting before moving to Fond du Lac, made a motion to reject the ordinance, citing allergy and safety concerns.

Paul Williams seconded, saying beehives could affect property values or be dangerous for kids and pets.

The rejection effort failed 4-3 with Rich Gruber joining Jorgensen and Williams.

Doug Marklein then added an amendment that will require beekeepers to put a sign on their front lawns saying they have bees. Williams added another amendment that will require beekeepers to give written notice to neighbors who live within 150 feet of a proposed beehive.

The amendments flipped Gruber’s vote, but Williams and Jorgensen remained in opposition. The final measure passed 5-2.

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