Urban beekeepers in Minneapolis will find their lives easier under an ordinance change approved unanimously by the City Council on Friday.

Beekeepers no longer need written approval from neighbors to start hives on their property, and will be free of city restrictions on hives located on the second story of a building or higher.

"Bees are in danger, so this is a small way that the city can make it easier for people who are keeping bees, which are an important part of our food system," said Council Member Lisa Bender, who wrote the ordinance.

The loosening of restrictions comes at a time of growing concern about bee die-offs and a revival of interest in back-yard beekeeping.

The new rules require beekeepers to notify neighbors only when seeking a permit for the first time, and then to tell the city's Animal Control unit each year if they intend to keep the hives. Landlords with tenants who keep bees must notify other renters.

Those who do not meet notification requirements face citations and may have their permits revoked.

Minneapolis had required permit applicants to obtain signatures from at least 80 percent of the residents within 100 feet of their property and full approval from neighbors immediately next to their property. The restrictions sometimes took weeks to fulfill and prevented some applicants from obtaining legal permission, officials said.

Liz Sawyer