Sunday, February 25, 2024

James City County Approves Changes to Zoning Ordinance to Allow Beekeeping in Non-Residential Districts

The James City County Board of Supervisors approved zoning ordinance amendments for beekeeping in non-residential districts. (Courtesy of Unsplash)

JAMES CITY COUNTY — The James City County (JCC) Board of Supervisors unanimously approved zoning ordinance amendments addressing the keeping of bees in non-residential districts during the Tuesday, Dec. 14 meeting.

According to Deputy Zoning Administrator Terry Costello, the Board of Supervisors approved the keeping of bees in residential districts during the Sept. 8, 2020 meeting.

During that meeting, the Board also adopted an Initiating Resolution to address beekeeping in non-residential districts. Costello said that the keeping of bees is currently permitted in residential and agricultural districts.

At the September 2020 meeting, the JCC Board of Supervisors directed staff to prepare the amendments for consideration by the Planning Commission and the Board.

Staff conducted research on the keeping of bees in non-residential districts in other localities, and the majority of the localities that permit beekeeping in residential districts do not permit beekeeping in non-residential districts.

Costello said that of the few localities that do permit the use in non-residential districts, the standards were the same in residential and non-residential.

According to a Dec. 14 memorandum, staff presented three options to the Policy Committee at the Oct. 15, 2020 meeting should it choose to move forward with allowing beekeeping in non-residential zoned areas.

The options included encouraging all beekeepers to follow the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services BMPs that were adopted by the Commonwealth of Virginia; applying the residential beekeeping standards to non-residential properties; and develop standards in the Special Regulations section of the Zoning Ordinance that would apply to non-residential properties.

“The Policy Committee directed staff to develop performance standards for non-residential properties similar to the format for residential properties,” the memorandum said.

Staff then presented the performance standards for ground mounted hives and rooftop hives at the July 15, 2021 Policy Committee meeting. The proposed standards included the requirement of notifications to adjacent property owners.

The standards proposed for rooftop hives included distances from the edge, requirement of a strapping system, and signage.

Staff prepared a draft ordinance based on the performance standards, which was presented at the Policy Committee’s Sept. 9 meeting. The requirement of notification to adjacent property owners was deleted from the ordinance due to the regulation being unenforceable.

The Policy Committee unanimously recommended approval of the draft ordinance to the Planning Commission.

During the Nov. 3 meeting, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors by a vote of 6-0.

Frank Polster, a member of the JCC Planning Commission, told the Board during the Dec. 14 meeting that the Planning Commission looked at the Silver Hand Meadery in Williamsburg while analyzing other localities that allow beekeeping in non-residential areas.

The Board unanimously approved the amendments.

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