Township abuzz

Hank Nash's hobby is creating quite a buzz with township planning commissioners.
Marie Havenga
Nov 5, 2012


Nash, a substitute science teacher for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, launched a beekeeping venture earlier this summer at his home in Strawberry Point, a quaint neighborhood of cottages dating back to the early 1900s.

But there’s a problem. The township has nothing on the books that allows beekeeping in residential neighborhoods.

“If it's not listed as permitted (in the zoning ordinance), it's basically prohibited,” said Township Community Development Director Lukas Hill.

But all of that may change as commissioners have been working on language to allow residential beekeeping. A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at Spring Lake Township Hall.

The proposed ordinance change would allow up to two colonies. Typical hives measure about 16-by-16 inches and stand 3 feet tall.

But even if the Planning Commission recommends approval to the Township Board and the board concurs, Hill said he doesn't expect a swarm of applications – the required site plan review and special land use permit for beekeeping would cost $470.

Nash, who is the brother of Township Supervisor John Nash, moved two of his hives to acreage near Spring Lake High School. Bees are permitted in agriculture zoning. Under current ordinances, bees are considered “farm animals.”

Nash said his 130,000 bees produced close to 100 pounds of honey this season. He gives the sweet syrup away to friends and family members and sells it through the Health Hutt in Grand Haven.

During last week's heat spell, Nash's bees flitted about. The semi-retired science teacher said he feeds them sugar water this time of year because natural nectar is nil. As the temperature drops, Nash said his bee buddies will hole up in the hive and move around to keep the temperature warm enough to survive.

In the spring, the bees will once again begin their search for flowers and blossoms. They will travel several miles, according to Nash, and pollinate plants along the way.

“They could be helping a lot of people in the area,” said Nash, who first got the bug to become a beekeeper after reading about the collapse of colonies across the nation.

He hooked up with a beekeeping club in Holland and ordered some hives.

“These kind of bees have been genetically developed and bred to be gentle,” Nash said. “I love watching bees. This is a great opportunity to learn about the natural world.”

Planning Commissioner Russ Tiles has a bee's-eye view on the issue – beekeepers operate two hives on his West Olive community supported agriculture farm.

“I'm definitely in favor of (allowing beekeeping in residential districts),” Tiles said. “We've had hives at the farm for the last three years. We have stuff planted right up to the hive. The only time I've been stung was when a bee landed on the hoe I was using. I didn't look and put my hand over the top.”

Tiles said honeybees are not aggressive toward humans unless provoked.

“I have a bee allergy and I'm not concerned in the least,” Tiles said. “With well-maintained hives, there shouldn't be any kind of issue. With decreasing bee populations in the United States, it seems like a great plan. It's kind of like bringing agriculture back into the city. It benefits everybody.”

Hill said if the township were to allow beekeeping under individual “special land use” requests, it would likely be on an “experimental” basis.

“Certainly we want to make sure it's not a danger to somebody and if there is a nuisance, we have the opportunity to revoke a special land use,” Hill said. “But I think we're looking at this as something we're willing to look at.”


Back to the Wall

I'd like some clarification. Zoning law is restrictive. If a use is not restricted by law, it is a by right use. For instance, there is no law against me pulling a loom out and making yarn and quilts in my yard. Or brewing beer. Or giving my labradoodle for a fetching lesson. If zoning was prescriptive, laws would be bulky and reqire dogmatic adherence. Please expound on the idea, Mr Lukas hill, that if a use isn't expressly allowed it is prohibited.


Mr. Lucas Hill makes up the rules as he goes. He should be replaced ASAP.


this seems to be a bit of Code Nazi going on. I agree with "Back to the Wall". Is breathing allowed?
It seems to run the same way with the building code.

explained by...

Back to the Wall: See Independence Twp v Skibowski, 136 Mich App 178, 184; 355 NW2d 903 (1984), app den (holding that a zoning ordinance written in terms of permitted uses necessarily implies the exclusion of any other non-listed uses). In other words, Mr. Hill is correct.

Back to the Wall

In Skibowski concrete processing was not a prescribed use in C-3. It was however a prescribed use in MH Heavy Industrial districts. Independence Township allowed concrete processing, just not in that C-3 district. Testimony that concrete processing was not compatible with other uses in C-3, and therefore relegated to MH was affirmed. That case does not apply here.

The idea of permissive zoning, or prescribed zoning, would require that all legal uses be allowed SOMEWHERE in the township. I may not be able to cite the case, but it was in the eighties, Ferndale perhaps(?), and dealt with adult entertainment being allowed, but regulated to only a few industrial areas by stating it had to be X feet from a residence or school, in an industrial district, etc. Adult uses could not (at that time) be prohibited, but could be zoned into corners that would force the business elsewhere.

Are there zoning districts in Spring Lake Township the expressly allow beekeeping? Agricultural districts, perhaps? If so, then the idea of prescriptive zoning can be upheld in this instance. That is a far cry from
“If it's not listed as permitted (in the zoning ordinance), it's basically prohibited"
and Mr. Lukas hill is speaking wrongly.


If Hank Nash is responsible for BE, I want to know how many other BE's he is harboring before I venture an opinion on the zoning issue.

Tri-cities realist

Vlad, usually I can understand your creative use of language, however this one escapes me. Could you BE so kind and elaborate for me?


I believe he's attempting to harrass the person who posts here frequently that uses the handle "BE". A pretty big stretch to attach her handle to an article on Bees, but maybe he's under the influence of some prescription medication or other mind altering substances, or maybe he's just trying to be BE. I could BE wrong too I suppose :-)


As usual Vlad, you having them thinking over your words. Carry on.


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