By Connor Lynch
KEMPTVILLE — The beekeeping business was there first. Then houses were built around it. Now, complaints are rolling in.
After 65 years of uninterrupted business in Kemptville, a local beekeeping operation might have to go to court to stay in business.
Peter Vichos, a commercial beekeeper with 1,200 hives, runs the honey extraction part of his operation out of a large building in downtown Kemptville. The building is filled with equipment and Vichos says he had to move some of his honey to large truck trailers parked outside.
Complaints began rolling in this year, culminating in Vichos receiving a court summons from the Municipality of North Grenville.
In March, Vichos received a complaint about barrels outside on his property. He moved the barrels. Shortly after, a complaint was made about exterior lighting. He changed that. Then, a noise complaint was made about one of his four large truck trailers he uses for honey extraction. He installed a quieter fan.
But things got worse and Vichos is now discovering how difficult it can be to operate a business surrounded by homeowners even though his operation was there first. Vichos’ is legally allowed to operate on his residentially-zoned property because the business was there before the land and surrounding properties were zoned residential. But while working 16-hour days and trying to put together a permit to expand his building and make room for the barrels, Vichos said he received a notice from the municipality on Sept. 11 to remove the trailers from the property. He discovered that it was illegal to use trailers for storage on a residential property.
He asked the municipality for time as he was too busy with harvest and needed the trailers to stay put for now. On Oct. 10, he received a summons to appear in court on Nov. 16. He protested and the court date has been put on hold but Vichos feels like he was subjected to an unnecessary heavy-handedness by municipal officials.
The story, first published in the North Grenville Times, has drawn the ire of many local residents who support Vichos. Forty-two residents posted comments after the online article was published. All supported Vichos. Posting on the newspaper’s Facebook page, Louis Gall said: “It should never have gotten to this stage. It is evident that someone (or several people) missed the opportunity to put some thinking into the situation and de-escalate.” Kyle Bolton called the situation “absolutely pathetic. Running small business out of Kemptville.”
Local resident Rob Jamieson noted: “I think it is time to remind our famous council that they don’t work for a few. They work for us all. There is too much bullying tactics going on with government today.”
Mayor David Gordon told Farmers Forum that the entire situation is a “non-story,” and “I think there’ll be a resolution that everyone will be happy with.”
However, he said that the municipality’s hands were tied in this situation. “When it comes to the bylaw process, if there’s a complaint, you have to act on it.”
Vichos said that he’s hopeful a resolution can be reached at their meeting in December, but that so far, without an agreement in place, he’s going into his next season with the weight of a court appearance hanging over his head.