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Building a buzz: Oak Bay opens the door to bees at its only hotel

Local business looks to add hives to Oak Bay Beach Hotel with bylaw change
Oak Bay may revisit its bylaw governing beekeeping in the district as Oak Bay Beach Hotel peruses adding hives on site. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

There’s a buzz about bees in Oak Bay that hasn’t been heard in years.

The district allows backyard bees and about a decade ago tweaked the rules to be less restrictive. Last November, a Greater Victoria business asked for a little more leeway.

Liam Cobbe, senior beekeeper with a local company called Alveole, asked council to consider opening up restrictions to allow bees beyond residential and institutional zoning so the commercially zoned Oak Bay Beach Hotel could house some bees on the roof.

Cobbe credited the district with a good bylaw, clearly well informed by what he calls “no nuisance beekeeping guidelines” that ensure beekeepers are managing their hives so there’s no nuisance to neighbours and the public.

RELATED: Increasing the buzz in Oak Bay

In response to a question from Coun. Esther Paterson, Cobbe noted the highest he’s installed hives in the region is 30 stories, which appears to be a limit as they start seeing “demising returns” beyond that. He noted some James Bay hives have been buffeted by coastal wind but added security keeps the bees safe and prevents accidents.

“With adjustments to the equipment we can manage any sort of risks associated with wind, whether it’s risks to the health of the hive or risks to the equipment,” he said.

READ ALSO: Security stands on guard for bees at Saanich shopping centre (video)

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite followed up in late January and saw support around the table to have Oak Bay look at the bylaw.

Staff will project backgrounder outlining resource implications and timing considerations of amending the zoning bylaw to expand beekeeping opportunities to commercial zoned sites.

Among her reasoning, she cited climate change and environmental circumstances that appear to be impacting bees – are an important part of the environment.

“In view of these impacts it seems beneficial to review existing regulations to identify possibilities to expand opportunities for bee keeping in the district,” she wrote.

READ ALSO: Hives at risk – Victoria honeybee hobbyist laments cool Vancouver Island spring


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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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