Greg Garrett and Anthony Bavuso won a ruling from Virginia judge earlier this week that will allow them to continue to engage in commercial oyster farming at their York County residences. That ruling reversed an earlier Board of Zoning Appeals decision that had sided with York County in determining that Garrett and Bavuso were operating in violation of the county’s zoning code.
Unless the county chooses to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, both men are effectively grandfathered on the grounds that they had engaged in oyster farming before revisions to the zoning code prohibited aquaculture. The prohibition still stands for York residents who might wish to emulate Garrett and Bavuso. However, for those who wish to engage in a money-making activity at home, York County zoning does the raising of pigs, buffalo, goats and other livestock.
“Our family has asserted all along that we have had the right to grow oysters and take them to the market from our private property,” said Garrett in an email distribution. “We are so glad the Judge agreed.” Listen to his side of the legal dispute on this clip from Fox News.
Garrett’s family has been eating oysters grown in the York River since 1620. His sweet, plump bivalves, he claims on his blog, are “famous” for their mildly salty taste, a trait they get from their cultivation in the York River, the saltiest river of the Bay. The claim to fame evidently is based upon the fact that Queen Elizabeth ate them when she visited Yorktown and proclaimed them delicious.
Bacon’s bottom line: An increasing number of property owners along the shoreline of the Bay and its tributaries are establishing oyster reefs or engaging in small-scale aquaculture. News flash to York County supervisors: This is a good thing. Oysters filter and clean the Bay’s waters. They are an indispensable link in the Bay’s ecosystem. People should be encouraged to grow oysters. What are you thinking?
Update: The York County supervisors have decided to appeal the ruling, as the Daily Press reports here.
Update: Read through the comments, some from York County residents claiming to be familiar with the case. As one of them writes, “The problem arises when these guys start stacking 200 oyster cages in their yard for storage or running a pressure washer all weekend to clean the the marine life off of the cages, or shucking oysters and and piling a bunch of shells in their backyard that smell like rotting seafood.”
If the activity is creating an eyesore and nuisance for neighbors living in close proximity, York County probably has (or should have) every right to limit the activity through zoning. Clearly, I jumped the gun in writing this post.