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St. Paul Park approves urban poultry and beehive ordinances

Communities across the metro are rewriting city ordinances to accommodate urban fowl and beehives, and St. Paul Park is following the buzz.

A recent request from City Council member Jennifer Cheesman prompted the council to re-evaluate its laws relating to animal restrictions to see if they could be loosened. Now, St. Paul Park residents can cultivate a beehive and keep their chicken coops closer to their homes.

While chickens are allowed within city limits, bee-keeping was previously not. Current city code allows residents to have a maximum of four chickens on their property if the coop is 300 feet from a neighboring home, a distance Cheesman wanted shortened because it limited where they could be kept. A unanimous decision by the council last week will allow owners to keep a chicken coop a minimum of 50 feet from a neighboring residence, with a 10-foot setback from the property line. The bird owner must still adhere to a limit of four chickens and no roosters.

At a March St. Paul Park Planning Commission meeting, commissioners discussed drafting a similar ordinance to include bee-keeping within city limits. The city's consulting planner, Nate Sparks, said some cities in the area have seen increased interest in cultivating beehives and said the commission "didn't think it would be too outrageous of an idea."

The council accepted commission recommendations that there be a two-colony limit on residential properties and interested people must attend a beekeeping training seminar, either through the University of Minnesota Extension or a similar program, prior to obtaining the bees.

"The city administrator can determine which kinds of training would be equivalent (to the University of Minnesota Extension)," Sparks said.

The ordinance also includes language specifying the beekeeper must install flyaway barriers, such as large bushes, in the event that the honeybees get out of the hive "they would fly up and out and not directly into" the sight line of neighbors, Sparks said.

The ordinance also requires residents interested in beekeeping to notify neighbors of the incoming hives and they must adhere to a minimum 50-foot setback from neighboring houses and a 10-foot setback from their home.

Council member Sandi Dingle, who cited allergies in her opposition to the proposed beekeeping ordinance, said last week that her opinion had changed.

"I was totally against this from the start but I can't just say, 'No, not in my backyard,'" she said. "I went out and talked to someone at the Minnesota Beekeepers Association who has tended bees all his life. Learning more about (beekeeping) is a really good idea."

Residents interested in beekeeping must also pay a $100 application and license fee, and similar to the chicken ordinance, a $50 yearly permit fee for each year thereafter.

"I think this is a good ordinance and it will be interesting to see how many people want to do this," Dingle added.

Cottage Grove is debating whether to change its ordinance related to urban fowl and poultry.