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Medford council votes 4-3 to lift ban on beehives in residential yards

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MEDFORD, Oregon — The Medford City Council has voted to allow beehives in backyards.

The changes to a city ordinance — which need a second reading before becoming official — allow beehives in single-family residential areas as well as on properties zoned commercial or industrial. Hives would still be prohibited in multi-family residential areas.

Bees were already allowed in areas zoned for agriculture.

Registration of all beehives would be required, with the city creating an online map showing their locations.

The popularity of urban beekeeping has increased in recent years, with the White House getting its first hive and cities such as New York overturning bans. Moreover, scores of news stories about mysterious bee die-offs have highlighted the importance of pollinators.

But Thursday's vote was only 4-3, the Mail Tribune newspaper (http://is.gd/aOEcPN ) reported.

Councilman Dick Gordon opposed the measure, figuring that 10 houses on an acre could conceivably have 30 hives.

"I'd rather proceed more conservatively," he said.

Mayor Gary Wheeler responded that the hundreds of dollars needed to establish a hive would deter most people, along with the ongoing maintenance.

"That's overthinking the situation," Wheeler said to Gordon. "I don't want to toss in barriers."

City planner Carla Paladino said nearby Ashland allows beehives, and only has 17 within its 6-square-mile boundary. Given Medford's larger size and population, she expects the city might end up with about 70 hives.

The city has received 60 emails regarding the ordinance, with most in favor of backyard beehives, Paladino said.

"There are so many benefits that outweigh our risk of fear," said Jami Ronda, a resident who spoke in favor of bees Thursday.

The handful of citizens opposed to beehives cited issues with stings and bees going into hot tubs and swimming pools, Paladino said.

Ellen Wright with the Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association said bees are not aggressive and people who are allergic to them typically carry a device that can be injected after a sting.


Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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