UPDATED: Honeybees in Forsyth County clear first hurdle -- Public hearings to follow

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Support for bees and beekeeping are important for Forsyth County residents.

At a Jan. 24 commission work session, they buzzed in and swarmed the chambers, donning yellow shirts to show support for the honeybees.

Forsyth County Commissioners voted unanimously to change the definition of livestock in the Unified Development Code to allow for honeybees.

The issue was first brought up in August 2011 when a homeowner and beekeeper was told by county’s code enforcement he was violating the law by having the bees in his yard.

County commissioner Pete Amos and Planning Department Director Tom Brown met with residents and brought the issue to the commission.

The UDC currently says that a honeybee is considered “livestock.” This limits honeybees to agricultural zoning in the county.

Brown said he reviewed the issue with legal staff and asked if defining honeybees as livestock is really the intent of the law?

In today’s zoning code, a resident could ask for a conditional use permit, but “a restriction that places a limitation of one animal per acre, which obviously would not work with this use,” Brown said.

But if after two public hearings, the issue is approved by county commissioners, they will be allowed in residential zoning as well.

At the work session Tuesday, Jan. 24, Marc Conlyn, president of the Forsyth County Beekeeper Association spoke about the benefits to gardens, health and overall environment.

“Honey is a natural antiseptic,” Conlyn told commissioners. “Honey may fight local allergies…and is recommended to combat allergies.”

The commission’s action was not immediately incorporated into the official zoning code. There will be two public hearings and it could take about a month to take effect. Homeowners associations can still ban beekeeping, overruling county zoning law.

“If a beekeeper has a problem, that’s between the beekeeper and their homeowner association,” Commissioner Patrick Bell said.