Story by Katie Bisaro
Residents of Homestead Village, a condominium development off Rte. 17A in the Village, attended the Village Board meeting on Mon., Oct. 17 to express their concerns about a homeowner whom they believe is operating a bee keeping and honey bottling business out of his home.
Homestead Village residents, Deborah Toscano and Deborah Hefner, whose homes immediately adjoin either side of the home where the bee keeping and honey business is reported to be taking place, spoke to the Village Board of Trustees outlining the issues that have come up and the frustrations they and other residents on their street, and throughout the condo community, have faced.
Swarms of Bees in Homestead Village
The biggest issue, according to Toscano, is the swarms of bees that form on the street, preventing residents from being outside or even exiting their cars to get into their homes. Toscano brought photos and videos to back up her claims. Residents report being stung and needing to seek shelter from common areas, including the pool.
“It is a danger to all of us,” Toscano said.
Evidence of Home-based Business
Other issues the residents have faced include: noise from the building of bee boxes and the honey extraction machinery; increased traffic from delivery vehicles bringing bottling supplies to the home; and community trash receptacles containing honey combs and other debris that attract pests and animals.
Additionally, Toscano reported, employee vehicles are parked, sometimes double parked, along her street, as well as Olde Wagon Rd., blocking access not only to residents but to emergency vehicles.
Homestead HOA Aware of Complaints
Mayor Michael Newhard inquired as to whether the residents had contacted the Homeowner’s Association regarding this matter.
“Repeatedly,” Toscano answered, “it falls on deaf ears.”
Toscano has been to HOA meetings, sent in letters and encouraged other residents do the same. She was told that, according to the HOA attorney, there was nothing that could be done.
Building Inspector Contacted
Village Building Inspector, Dan Kelly, has also been alerted. Kelly wrote a letter to the homeowner about his bee keeping operation, outlining the concerns of the neighbors with regards to keeping a large number of bees in a densely populated neighborhood, and suggested finding an alternative location that is “more suitable for this endeavor.” Furthermore, the letter pointed out that a home-based business requires Planning Board approval “pursuant to the Zoning Law of the Village of Warwick.”
No Local Laws in Village or Town Pertaining to Bee Keeping
Newhard reported that he has reached out to the Town of Warwick for their policies and local laws relative to this situation and found there is nothing on the books in the Town at this time, although something is being worked on.
Newhard acknowledged, however, that the Town is a more rural community, not as densely populated as the Village, and any laws or regulations would not have necessarily applied to similar situations in the Village.
Village Attorney Michael Meth reported that if, in fact, the resident is running a business, the Building Inspector can file an “order to remedy.” He also explained that Agriculture and Markets Laws are regulated by New York State and that the Village can make them more restrictive through its zoning laws – limiting agricultural businesses based on density or certain zones (such as residential).
“It is certainly something you can regulate,” Meth stated.
Village May Consider New Local Law
Meth added that if this situation is one that the Village would like to regulate, a public hearing should be held and a new local law drafted. He emphasized that the new regulation cannot be “arbitrary and capricious,” that the law would have to designate particular zones or densities and would be applicable throughout the Village with the same criteria.
The Board of Trustees discussed the situation and potential actions that can be taken by the Village.
Trustee Eileen Patterson commented that zoning law already exists that regulates the number of deliveries that can be made to a business as well as available parking for employees. This could be enforced by the Building Inspector. Parking enforcement officers would not have jurisdiction over double-parked vehicles (as described by Toscano) as the roads in Homestead Village are private roads.
Trustee Barry Cheney agreed with Patterson and Trustee George McManus that the Building Inspector should take another look at the situation in light of the information brought to their attention at the meeting.
Patterson and McManus also expressed interest in creating a local law addressing the matter. Cheney agreed and suggested calling on the resources of New York State Agriculture and Markets, Cornell Cooperative Extension as well as the New York Conference of Mayors for guidance with respect to set backs, distances and densities.
Now that there are no flowers for pollen, the bee keeper is putting out barrels of sugar water to feed the bees, potentially attracting other wildlife. Toscano estimates there are four employees who regularly pick up bottled honey for delivery.
Mayor Newhard encouraged Toscano and Hefner to meet with the Building Inspector and pass on their information, photos and video.
“This is well beyond what would be called a hobby…we are hopeful you can help us. It’s frustrating and a quality of life issue,” stated Toscano.