Thursday, February 16, 2012

[Peninsula-Patriots] Fw: Why l am suing York County so l can grow oysters

I received this from Greg Garrett today. It is a very good example of the loss of property rights due to excessive regulations. In most cases people pay little attention to excessive regulations until it affects them personally.  

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and expects what never was and never will be"      Thomas Jefferson

DeWitt Edwards

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: "" <>
Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2012 5:06 AM
Subject: Why l am suing York County so l can grow oysters

I thought you guys might be interested in the details of the case..... what a sad commentary on the abuse of out-of-control local govt !!! Feel free to share this story wherever it could be useful. If you have any outlets where this could generate out of town media coverage feel free to send it to them too.
From the very beginning of all of this unprecedented attack on property rights, we have contended that we have the right to grow, harvest and sell oysters. Here is what we base this on:

1. We are zoned for commercial agriculture, which means that according to York County and it's Zoning Laws, we can legally grow pigs, cows, goats, frogs, crickets, worms, crocodiles, buffalos, etc. etc. right now on our Rural Residential property W/O a Use Permit, but for the first time in York County's 400 year history they are requiring a resident (me) to obtain a Special Use Permit (which they won't approve) to grow oysters.

2. Aquaculture is agriculture according to the Va Code & the laws of the USA.
3. Up until the changes the BoS made in Nov 2011, York County's restrictions on aquaculture were designed to limit land based fish tanks/ponds, not river based oyster farms & their Zoning Code clearly stated that those of us in Rural Residential Zones can grow "livestock" for the commercial market. They further described "livestock" as "any animal grown for food", which includes oysters and clams (SEE ATTACHED LETTER FROM Mike Oesterling, THE RECENTLY RETIRED OYSTER EXPERT FROM VIMS). I have over 12 other expert opinions that state that aquaculture is agriculture, and/or that say that York County's pre-Nov 2011 Zoning Code did not prohibit my oyster farming operation.
4. We have 7 permits, leases, licenses, and certifications from the Commonwealth of VA to grow, harvest, sell, & ship oysters.

This is all about political payback. I did not support the Board of Supervisor incumbents for re-election for various reasons, including how out of touch they are with the citizens, their tendency to expand govt, increase regulations, increase taxes, decrease property rights, oppose businesses in the County that we desperately need, and even stretch the truth to justify past bad decisions. They also have a history of punishing anyone that opposes them or the staff when they stand up for their individual rights. This is simply abuse of their political power. In a meeting in November, BoS Chairman Tom Shepperd even admitted that l was the reason that the BoS created the new ultra-restrictive zoning laws last year that were designed to put a halt to agriculture, aquaculture and workboats in York County.

Here is an example of just how out of touch they are:

One of the biggest issues they have been talking about over the last year, and were still talking about in their retreat last week, was the 94 million dollars the citizens of York County are going to have to pay due to EPA mandates to clean the Bay. During this same year, they have been going overboard in their efforts to stop aquaculture, or oyster farms even though it has been scientifically proven that:

1. Oysters are the best natural way to clean the Bay.

2. Oyster aquaculture is the only sustainable way to increase the oyster population in the Bay.

Why aren't they trying to promote oyster aquaculture, and at the same time work out a compromise to reduce the $94 million with the EPA based on the increase of oysters they could have by encouraging their waterfront citizens to grow oysters at their own expense, with all of us benefiting from the efforts of a few? The Bd of Supervisors and the EPA both know that each oyster can filter over 50 gallons of seawater per day. In my case, our small oyster farm filters over 12 million gallons per day. So they are trying to kill the creative solution instead of embracing it.... and planning to increase our taxes instead.

No one has ever complained about our oyster farm. All they ever complain about is what they say they fear will happen, which is:

1. Smell. They fear that the oyster farm will somehow stink up the neighborhood. Jim Wesson, the lead oyster expert, in Va at the VMRC said recently that he is not aware of any oyster aquaculture farm ever having an odor problem.... the fact is that oyster farms do not smell bad. This is a myth. I wonder how bad a pig farm would smell, which we can already have, based on the current zoning laws?

2. Trucks. They fear that 18 wheelers will be riding through the rural residential neighborhoods carrying oysters to market. The fact is that a pick-up truck can carry 10,000 oysters. Therefore with one pick-up truck leaving an oyster farm per day (which would have no impact on any neighborhood) a farm could produce over 3 million oysters per year and not impact anything.... if they made 3 trips per day, they could deliver 10 million oysters per year with virtually no impact. We have no intention of getting this big, just like we have no intention to grow pigs or drive them in big pig trucks through the neighborhood, even though we can legally do that now.

3. Noise. They fear that the noise would ruin the neighbors' peaceful enjoyment of their property. Oyster farms are not noisy. Jim Wesson also said publicly that he was not aware of a single complaint about noise from an oyster farm in VA. The noisiest piece of equipment we use is a pressure washer, which is about as loud as a lawn mower. We normally use it approx 650' from our closest neighbor where it can barely be detected, if at all. Based on our current permits from VA, we can make all the noise we want from a workboat, without limitation just 1' off of our neighbors' shoreline, which we have never done and would never do.

All in all, we look forward to the judge's decision. We are grateful for a legal system that allows us, as citizens, to take the County to Court where this can be decided once and for all. We believe that the judge will not allow the County to continue to exercise this blatant abuse of power any longer.
What do we see as the outcome of all this?
1. We will continue to grow, harvest & sell the best tasting oysters on the planet.
2. 100's of fellow citizens and small businesses will get into the aquaculture business in and around the Bay, creating 1000's of jobs in Hampton Roads alone.
3. We will stop importing 70%-90% of the seafood we eat in VA, and locals will eat much more locally grown, sustainable seafood that is much fresher & healthier than the current imports.
4. The Bay will gradually get cleaner each year and eventually, in my lifetime, the water will be clear enough to see a vibrant bottom, full of sea grasses that will once again be habitat for abundant aquatic life.
5. We will eventually grow enough Chesapeake Bay & York River oysters to export so they can be eaten in the finest restaurants in the world.
6. The EPA will begin to leave us alone, once we prove to them that we can clean up our own waters without spending almost 100 million of citizens' hard earned tax dollars.
7. We will have leaders in York County that embrace aquaculture as a major component of the overall Bay cleanup plan, that want more seafood industry jobs, more workboats, more seafood exports, more agriculture, more private property rights, less overreaching restrictions and abundant locally grown seafood for the health and happiness of our citizens.
Greg Garrett
offices in Hpt Rds from Chesapeake to Williamsburg
Licensed in Virginia
cell # 757-879-1504

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