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Rapid City couple may have to give up their backyard bee farm; city says it's against the law

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RAPID CITY, South Dakota — A Rapid City couple who has been raising bees in their backyard for the past five years may have to give up their honey-making hobby.

John and Christine McDowell were recently warned that they couldn't keep their backyard beehives because the city doesn't allow hobby beekeeping in residential neighborhoods like theirs.

"I would like to see the honeybees continue to be in town," said John McDowell, who wrote a letter to the city and estimated there are 125 beehives throughout Rapid City and outside of city limits.

Assistant City Attorney Allison Marsland told the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/1xsjqgK ) that beekeeping is allowed only in areas zoned for general agriculture. She said while there are laws that allow some low-density residential zones to grow "agriculture crops," they're meant for gardening — not beekeeping.

The McDowells have asked the city to revise its definition of "crop" to include honey production.

A city committee voted Wednesday to reject a request from the McDowells to modify the zoning code and allow backyard beekeeping in low-density residential areas. The full council will look at the issue at its Monday night meeting.

Rick Hayes lives down the street from McDowell and said the bees have become a nuisance.

"The last two years, they've just been like mosquitoes to us," Hayes said. "They've just been bothersome. We've lived with them but this spring, it got to be where the kids toys, the sandbox, the pool — they're just covered with them."

Robert Tolman, who's also a local beekeeper, said he hopes the council changes its policy to allow beekeeping in the city.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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