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An ordinance moved forward by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday evening could soon send a buzz through the county’s residential neighborhoods.
Supervisors advanced a decision to permit urban beekeeping as a by-right use to its Oct. 3 meeting, putting the proposal on track to make the consent agenda after some tweaks to clarify the regulations for shutting down old hives. The ordinance would allow for the placement of apiaries in residential districts by right, set setback regulations and lay out other rules.
The proposal came from a desire to allow some agricultural uses in the county’s development areas.
Under the proposed regulations, urban hives must be more than 10 feet away from property lines and any adjacent public rights of way, have entrances facing away from that adjacent property or right of way and cannot be placed in a front yard. Beekeepers also must post signs warning of the presence of bees.
Eight colonies would be permissible on lots larger between 1 and 5 acres, six would be allowed on lots between 0.75 and 1 acre, four on lots between 0.5 and 0.75 acres and two on smaller lots. Residents won’t have restrictions on the number of hives on properties larger than 5 acres.
The rules came from reviewing both statewide and nationwide regulations.
“What we found was a significant uniformity in those regulations, and from that we developed some standards,” said Bill Fritz, the county’s development process manager.
The city of Charlottesville does not have limitations on beekeeping.
According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, honeybee loss winter was at nearly 60 percent in the state, the highest rate since 2000, when the state began monitoring winter losses, according to state apiarist Keith Tignor. Nationally, 30.7 percent of managed colonies were lost in the winter, a 9.5 percent increase over the previous winter. No one cause stands out, researchers say.
In response, VDACS is encouraging people to become beekeepers or add to their existing hives.
Earlier in the meeting, supervisors also approved the recommended budget calendar for fiscal year 2020. Although fiscal year 2019 is less than 90 days old, work on the next budget kicks off with a strategic plan update at a work session Friday and a Sept. 27 joint work session with the School Board on planning for the capital improvement plan.