Bee hives unwelcome in complex

Huntington Beach council members and residents are buzzing around the issue of where beekeepers should keep their hives.

Folks in the Huntington Landmark senior citizens community are clashing with their homeowners association for not addressing their concerns about nine hives being kept on the property.

Resident Tom Dern said he has been stung once and believes having the bees poses a threat to the older population within the community, located between Newland and Magnolia streets and Indianapolis and Atlanta avenues.

"I don't like the fact that I have to go to the city government because I'm not a big fan of government," he said. "Let people make their own decisions, but [the homeowner's association] won't make the decision here. I want to see the bees gone."

Marvin Garrett, a member of Landmark's HOA board and a proponent of the bees, said the beekeepers are housing only docile, European bees.

"We're trying to preserve honey bees," he said. "Because so many of the honey bees are dying off, and they're trying to figure out why, we decided that instead of killing honey bees, we would keep them. What we're really doing is managing the location of honey bees."

To address the residents' concerns, an item to amend an existing ordinance regarding beekeeping was introduced at the Aug. 5 City Council meeting.

Existing city law states that a beekeeper's hives are to be located at least 200 feet from the residence. The proposed ordinance would have altered it so that hives would have to be kept at least 200 from any residence.

In essence, it wouldn't have banned beekeeping but could have made it near impossible because of the city's density, said Amy Cripps, president of the Orange County Beekeepers Assn.

Cripps said the group has around 250 members and that beekeeping is a hobby that's growing in popularity.

The Costa Mesa resident gave presentations at the recent Orange County Fair, where she explained that bees shouldn't pose a problem to others as long as they are properly maintained. However, some keepers selectively choose to keep feral species, like Africanized bees, in their hives, contributing to the insect's population decline.

"I don't know what these guys are doing in Huntington Beach, but I'm going to venture a guess that their bees are not European," Cripps said.

Council members unanimously voted to continue the item to the next meeting, allowing staff to talk to Cripps to find a better solution to allow beekeepers to continue their hobby while protecting residents.

"I didn't realize that it was that many people that collected bees for a hobby," Councilman Joe Carchio said. "I'm not begrudging anybody to do that in their house, but when you live in close proximity to other people, like in a condominium or senior park, that could present a little bit of a problem."

HOA members appear split.

"I don't think that we need to expose senior people to a bunch of bees," said board member Donna Brady. "We had plenty of bees in the wild before, but it's not the same when you start putting hives out for them."

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