The Elgin City Council is receptive to the notion of allowing residents of single-family homes to keep honeybees, and is expected to discuss specifics such as lot size, setback and maximum number of bee colonies in the near future.
"I just don't see this as being a huge issue, as long as we're responsible and we have some responsible controls," Councilman Rich Dunne said at last week's council meeting after a presentation by beekeeping instructor Larry Krengel.
Beekeeping is not permitted in Elgin under an ordinance that bans farm animals, which covers bees and apiaries because they need to be registered with the state's department of agriculture.
The sustainability commission recommended allowing beekeeping in Elgin, following the examples of communities including Naperville, Schaumburg, Geneva and Chicago, which has beehives on the rooftop of city hall.
Honey bees are "very docile, very amiable" creatures who are aggressive if their hive is threatened, said Krengel, who's taught at McHenry County College and College of Lake County and has been a beekeeper for decades.
They are pollinators important to the environment, and produce honey that is healthier and easier to digest than sugar, he said.
The city could start with a pilot program with a limited number of permits in 2018, city spokeswoman Molly Center said. Residents whose health can be compromised by bee stings could register with the city so that no beehives would be allowed in the immediate vicinity.
Councilman John Steffen asked whether there might be problems with dogs, cats and young children who approach beehives. "That potential does exist but I'm not aware of any occurrences," Krengel said.
Councilman Terry Gavin said he's aware of illegal beekeepers in Elgin who've never caused problems. "I'm all for bees," he said, suggesting the city could even allow beekeeping without creating a formal pilot program.
Many municipalities don't have beekeeping ordinances and address related problems under their nuisance ordinances, Krengel said.