Elgin residents will likely be allowed to keep honeybees after getting a $65 permit starting Jan. 1.

The city council unanimously approved the ordinance at its committee of the whole meeting Wednesday. A final vote is set for Dec. 20.

Residents would be allowed two hives on lots one-quarter acre or smaller and a maximum of four hives on larger lots. Community facility lots of 1 acre or more, such as one Advocate Sherman Hospital plans, could have up to eight hives.

Beekeepers would have to register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, as per state law.

The goal of the ordinance, vetted by the sustainability commission, is to "create a community that allows residents to make choices related to sustainable living and local food production."

"That's a great objective for our community to have," Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger said.

Hives will be allowed in backyards and rooftops at least 25 feet from residential structures other than the hive owner's and 10 feet from property lines. Residents who keep hives within 20 feet of property lines must install a screen or barrier of some sort -- a fence or dense landscaping -- at least 6 feet high.

Beekeepers should maintain a source of fresh water within 10 feet of the hive and have a "bees on premise" sign.

"Well thought of, well designed, common sense," Councilman Terry Gavin said. "That's all you need to get good policy."

Resident Rizwan Arastu had petitioned the city last summer to keep honeybees. His family, which includes five children, also has a coop with four chickens in their backyard.

"I'm really excited. I'm really happy," he said.

The city council was presented with research about honeybees and regulations in other suburbs. No residents spoke against the plan.

Arastu credited the work of sustainability commission liaison Molly Center.

"Molly really took the cause and ran with it," he said. "I think it was as efficient as it could be with government."