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Hampton beekeeper told to remove hives

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Deborah Deasy | Hampton Journal
Joe Saber, 77, of Hampton, has been forced to remove his bee hives because it is against the township ordinance.
Deborah Deasy | Hampton Journal
Joe Saber, 77, of Hampton, was forced to remove his bee hives because it is against the township ordinance.
Deborah Deasy | Hampton Journal
Joe Saber, of Hampton, was forced to remove his bee hives two years ago because it is against the township ordinance. But a proposed new ordinance could allow him to bring the bees back home.

Hampton Township hatched a hubbub when it stung beekeeper Joe Saber with an eviction notice.

Last month, the municipality instructed Saber — via letter — to remove the beehives in his Leroy Drive yard.

“I believe it's unfair. I don't think they bother anybody,” said Lisa McClelland, a mother of three who lives across the street from Saber.

“I'd like him to be able have the hives come back to his yard,” McClelland said.

Saber, 77, houses thousands of industrious Italian honeybees in two stacks of wooden boxes, painted green. Until recently, the hives sat among lush bushes in a corner of Saber's well-manicured, sloping yard. He painted oak leaves on the hives to help the bees.

“I decorated the front, so they'll recognize their hives,” said Saber, a member of the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society.

Reluctantly, Saber expected to relocate the hives last week to property in another municipality.

Saber made plans to move the hives after he got a June 20 letter from Hampton Township with instructions to remove the hives from his backyard within five days — or risk a citation — because the township's zoning ordinance lists bees among “farm animals” prohibited in residential districts.

“I'd like Hampton to not consider bees as farm animals,” said Saber, a Bell Atlantic retiree. “I would like them to allow beekeeping. I enjoy beekeeping.”

The soft-spoken Saber brought his bees' eviction notice to the June 26 meeting of Hampton Council.

“I ask for 30 days to comply,” Saber told council members.

Saber also asked Hampton Council to permit master beekeeper Stephen Repasky of Dormont, president of BurghBees, to speak at the meeting. BurghBees promotes urban beekeeping.

“I think you would be surprised to know how many beekeepers are in Hampton,” Repasky told Hampton Council. “Beekeeping is a growing urban trend. It makes communities healthier.”

Repasky, who serves on the legislative committee of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, offered to help Hampton officials draft an ordinance that would allow beekeeping in all areas of Hampton.

“It's a very safe hobby,” Repasky said.

Any undoing of the township's prohibition on neighborhood honeybees must begin with a petition, according to Marty Orban, land use administrator for Hampton Township.

“Somebody would have to petition Hampton Council to consider a change to the (zoning) ordinance,” Orban said.

Last month, Forest Hills Council voted to amend that borough's ordinance and permit Forest Hills residents to keep two hives of bees — at least 10 feet from their property lines — on lots of 2,000 or more square feet.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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