An exception to the rule appears to be sweeter than honey for local beekeepers.
Forsyth County commissioners took the first step toward amending the unified development code to allow honeybees in all zoning districts.
The commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to hold two public hearings on changing the code, which prohibits bees in residential districts under the definition of “livestock.”
The issue arose last fall when a backyard beekeeper received a notice from county code enforcement that his hives were a violation.
Nicholas Weaver appealed the issue through the county’s chain of command, contending that honeybees are not livestock.
The county’s director of planning and community development, Tom Brown, made an administrative call that bees did fall under the definition, since his research showed the insects are domesticated.
“That sparked some debate, some dialogue over is that really the intent of our ordinance,” Brown said during Tuesday’s work session.
A presentation by Marc Conlyn, past president of the Forsyth County Beekeepers Club, showed the honeybee is not aggressive unless provoked and contributes many benefits to the environment and the economy.
“Because the honeybee does so much for us, by way of pollination, we need to do more for them,” Conlyn said.
A few dozen local honeybee supporters, clad in yellow, attended the meeting. They applauded when commissioners voted to start the process of changing the code.
Commissioner Patrick Bell made the motion to exclude honeybees from the definition of livestock, though he added that individual homeowner associations may still prohibit the hobby.
Though commissioners unanimously supported initiating a change, Chairman Jim Boff noted that Brown’s call should be respected.
“[Government officials] are sometimes in an odd position of having to make an interpretation about something, and Tom did that to the best of his ability,” Boff said. “It’s not necessarily something we all agree with.
“I think we need to, at a minimum, respect the position that some of us get put in.”
The process of changing the code should take about one to two months, he said.
Until then, Bell added that beekeepers will be allowed to continue their hobby without concern of being cited by code enforcement.
No dates have been set for the public hearings.