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Pennsylvania community residents at odds over hobby

It isn't the typical neighborhood real estate dispute, but it nonetheless is an issue that has residents of a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, community buzzing.

It all started when a couple installed two bee hives on the deck behind their home. A woman who lives four doors from the couple in Plymouth Township said she is so allergic to bee stings that she has asked that community officials ban beekeeping on properties less than an acre in size. So far, 50 residents have joined the woman to tell local leaders that they fear the safety of people living in proximity to the hives.

While the local residents said they respect the environmental benefit of the honey bees, their neighborhood is not the place to raise them. The hive owners, however, said they have met all of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's requirements.

This is a dilemma that could be playing out in neighborhoods across the state, where the number of people who keep bees at home has risen to a number estimated in excess of 2,000.

Plymouth Township officials initially told the bee owners they could not keep the bees because zoning prohibited them from growing insects. They changed their mind when they decided that the bees were for agricultural purposes.

The township council held a public hearing, but did not make a decision on whether the couple can maintain the hive and did not state when it would issue a decision. The manager of the township said the council was trying to determine if this matter fell within its jurisdiction.

Whenever property owners believe a change in their neighborhood violates area laws and could impact their property values or quality of life, they should review town regulations, then consult with officials. But homeowners also have a right to pursue endeavors on their own properties, as long as it complies with the law.

Source: The Inquirer, "For Montco woman with allergy, neighbor's beekeeping is a health issue," Bonnie L. Cook, April 23, 2012

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