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Beekeepers in Clarksville upset by proposal to change city ordinance

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CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A proposal to change a city ordinance has some Midstate beekeepers in an uproar.

Beekeepers say the resolution could prevent them from making local honey and help Africanized bees land in Clarksville.

The trouble started this month when Clarksville City Council members took up a proposal that would have forced beekeepers to keep their hives 200 feet from a neighbor's house.

"We got blindsided. We had no idea anybody had a problem," said Chuck Cook, vice president of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association.

Beekeepers like Cook, who has nine hives on his property, were outraged, arguing the change would force bees out of some neighborhoods completely.

"The problem is, they're fighting us as we're trying to fight for the bees," Cook said.

Cook says the move could have been deadly since Clarksville is prone to Africanized bees and local beekeepers are the ones who watch for them.

"When they wrote this proposal, from what we can gather, they didn't contact any of the experts," Cook said.

Councilman Kip McNeal says the council drew up the first proposal after city planners got a complaint about a woman with bees on her property and realized bees were not included in the city's agriculture ordinance.

After the bee backlash, the council went back to the drawing board and put together a new proposal.

"We decided to scrap the 200-foot line and voted to send the second proposal to the planning commission," McNeal said.

The revised proposal matches standards set by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, allowing bees 50 feet from a neighbor's property line, which is something beekeepers like Cook say they can live with.

The new proposal goes to the planning commission on Wednesday afternoon.

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