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Beekeeper fighting Racine Co. over zoning laws

TOWN OF DOVER -- Debi Fuller takes pride in the organic gardens growing behind her southern Racine County home, but she credits much of her success to her bees.

\"I'm a beekeeper, but I'm really a bee-helper or aider,\" Fuller said.

Fuller started with two hives two years ago, eventually growing to three.  She says she called Racine County and her town to make sure she could legally have the insects, and according to her, got the \"OK\".  But this spring a neighbor's complaint to the zoning department led to trouble.

\"I was served with a citation by a sheriff on my front porch, which was another shocker,\" Fuller said.

Racine County allows beekeeping, but only on agricultural land.  Fuller's property is in a quiet, rural community and zoned as residential.

\"If I felt I was really, truly disobeying a law, I would not do it,\" Fuller said.  \"But, I feel there's a lot of open interpretation there.\"

\"We react to complaints that come in, we don't go out and look for these things,\" Racine County Public Works Director Julie Anderson said.

Anderson says her office communicated with Fuller, giving her time to remove the bees to an appropriate area, but Fuller refused.

\"We were thinking maybe she would provide our land use committee with some information that they might wish to consider and then possibly that they would direct staff to do some ordinance modifications,\" Anderson said.

That hasn't happened.  Anderson says she has no record of Fuller's phone call two years ago and stands by her staff's knowledge of zoning laws.

\"All we can do is use the ordinance that's available to us and right now our zoning ordinance just says that bees belong in agricultural zoned areas and not in residential zoned areas,\" Anderson said.

Fuller thinks it's time that changed, claiming her bees aren't a threat, but rather a benefit.

\"I hope common sense prevails,\" Fuller said.

The beekeeper refuses to pay her more than $300 citation, opting to take the matter to court.  The next date is set for the end of August.

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