Michael Lewis got a bit of a reprieve that will allow him to keep his small apiary at his home on Cambridge Drive in Daleville behind Lord Botetourt High School for the time being.
Lewis appeared before the Board of Supervisors last week asking for a text amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance that would allow by-right beekeeping in residential (R) zoned districts so he could keep the hives he has.
“Apiculture,” or beekeeping, is only allowed in the Agriculture (A-1) zoned district under the current county zoning ordinance, Planning Manager/Zoning Administrator Nicole Pendleton told the supervisors, and is lumped together with all the other agriculture land uses for the purpose of raising plants and animals.
She didn’t like the idea of proceeding with a text amendment to allow beekeeping in residential zoned districts without first reviewing the structure of the county’s agriculture use definitions and how they are applied.
She asked the supervisors to allow the planning staff to add a review of agriculture uses to her office’s scheduled work— putting it off by about nine months— because there may be supplemental regulations to consider such as the number of hives per parcel, setback considerations, flyaway barriers provisions, adequate water regulations, potential inspections and other considerations that might be appropriate for each residentially zoned district.
Beekeeping in Botetourt has grown considerably the past few years, thanks partly to efforts by the state and federal agriculture agencies to promote the endeavor because of the huge losses of honeybee colonies in recent years.
Locally, Botetourt residents have formed the Botetourt Beekeepers Association to help promote beekeeping and provide educational assistance to beekeepers. The county also has an organization, the Botetourt 4-H Honeybee Club, that does the same with youth.
Lewis is currently president of the Botetourt Beekeepers Association.
He told the supervisors he’s already done considerable research on possible ordinance changes that would accommodate allowing beekeeping in residential areas. He said the one he likes best is Roanoke City’s approach.
“A lot of places have gone through this question,” Lewis told the supervisors. “It’s not the best way to approach (beekeeping) in lumping them in with chickens and such,” he said.
“The wheel’s been developed” to address the issue, he told the supervisors.
He told the supervisors a lot of his neighbors are “thrilled I’m keeping bees.” He said their gardens do better, as do their flowers.
He said one neighbor had concerns about the bees, and Pendleton told the supervisors her office issued a courtesy notice to Lewis that he is in violation of the county ordinance because of a complaint her office received.
After questioning by Supervisor John Williamson III, Pendleton told the supervisors her office would not issue a cease and desist order as long as Lewis was working with the county on a solution.
That prompted Supervisor Todd Dodson to make a motion that passed unanimously to direct the Planning and Zoning staff to look at making changes to the zoning ordinance “and not lock him up in the meantime…not put him out of business.”
Pendleton had asked to bring the matter back during an October work session with the Planning Commission when the two bodies will consider possible changes to the zoning ordinance, including other forms of “urban agriculture” that might be appropriate in residential districts.
Zoning Changes Under Consideration
Supervisor Chair Jack Leffel told Lewis the issue fell under “a big basket” that needs to be looked at a lot longer.
That was apparent by the Planning and Zoning staff’s schedule of work the supervisors reviewed just before taking up Lewis’ request.
After reviewing a lengthy list of projects the Planning and Zoning staff has worked on since 2014, Pendleton went over nine items staff is currently working on and asked for direction on another seven that have been mentioned for review.
Those in the works right now (and a timeline if available) include:
- Gateway Crossing Overlay District, with a work session in February and adoption in May.
- Updates to the zoning ordinance as recommended by the Urban Development Areas (UDA) consultants. The supervisors created two UDAs last year— the 741-acre Gateway Crossing Area around Exit 150 and the 185-acre Daleville Town Center area.
- Creation of a High Density Residential District (R-4) with a proposal in April.
- An owner-initiated text amendment to the Traditional Neighborhood District (TND) ordinance that will come up in April. Daleville Town Center is the county’s only current TND zoned area.
- UDA District and commercial development standards in May.
- The draft for grant funding has been submitted that would finance the second phase of the county’s house study. The funding, if approved, will allow the county to hire a consultant to perform land use assessment of shovel-ready sites for housing development in the county.
- Begin work on revisions to the county sign ordinance in May.
- Updating existing maps that will be based on the 2016 UDA update approved by the supervisors. This will assist with visualizing infill development opportunities. The staff is also working with GIS Analyst Robert Beatty to create maps that will guide conversations for community meetings as part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan updated.
- The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission has committed time to update the transportation chapter in the county’s Comprehensive Plan that has a July timeline.
The projects the Planning and Zoning staff will be working on include:
- Research and consideration of context appropriate for urban agriculture in residential and commercial zones.
- Evaluate the potential for revisions to the county’s telecommunications ordinance.
- Consideration of multiple agriculture districts and reintroducing Agricultural-Rural (AR) as a separate district from Rural Residential (RR) district that was created and meant to absorb the AR district.
- Evaluate uses and definitions and eliminate overlap, inconsistencies and contradictions in the zoning ordinance.
- Consider creating UDAs and overlay districts in areas surrounding the towns of Troutville, Fincastle and Buchanan.
- Update the Subdivision Ordinance to provide for updated development standards related to higher-density rezoning requests as well as small-lot boundary line adjustments or minor (1-4) lot subdivisions.
- Consider residential-scale wind energy regulations that are an “unvisited” item for the supervisors’ Strategic Plan.
— Ed McCoy