Forest Hills residents interested in raising bees and chickens might be able to do so in the next few months—but they want people in the community to be educated about urban farming.
Next Wednesday, borough council is expected to approve the advertisement of an ordinance regulating the raising of bees and chickens. Once the proposed law is publicly advertised, officials will be ready to approve or reject it in June.
Council had discussed separating the bee and chicken ordinances, but during a straw vote, the majority agreed to keep them together. Councilman Mike Belmonte said he hoped to hold off on the matter in an attempt to educate the community about urban farming.
Officials agreed to continue with the process to pass the law and to hold a town hall meeting before June for anyone who wants to learn more.
Since the issue surfaced months ago, residents have been equally split. Those in favor of changing the ordinance highlighted a resident's freedom of choice to live greener lifestyles, and to eat fresh, organic food. Those opposing it submitted petitions and raised concerns about safety, health, enforcement and property values.
After hearing from bee and chicken raising experts, officials drafted a proposed ordinance. Some of the key points include the following:
Requirements would include registering all bee colonies with the state in accordance to state law, applying for an annual permit, undergoing a one-time inspection with the borough code enforcement officer and taking an introductory bee keeping class.
Bee colonies also should be located at least 10 feet from an owner's property line (50 feet if there's a pool or an animal that mainly stays outside), and that residents limit hives to two for every 2,000 square feet of property.
Bees must be kept in modern movable frame hives, and the borough can seize and destroy hives if they are a nuisance. Hives must face away from neighboring properties, they can't be kept in front yards and a water source must be available from April to November.
Residents can keep four hens at most per property, and they only can be kept in residential areas. Hens must be enclosed in a coop or fenced in at all times. Coops must be aesthetically pleasing, and they must be kept 25 feet from neighboring residences.
Residents can't slaughter their chickens, and they are not allowed to keep roosters. Chicken waste can be used as compost, otherwise it must be properly disposed of.
Once the ordinance is approved for advertisement, officials said they would post it on the borough website.
Officials said Councilwoman Devon Wood spent hours upon hours researching the matter and drafting the ordinance.
Wood said she worked hard in an effort to "craft one of the best ordinances out there."
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