Virginia Supreme Court Agrees to Hear York Oyster Farming Case

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Two York County oyster farmers’ years-long battle to continue to commercially farm and harvest oysters at their homes without a special-use permit persists, as the county looks to the Virginia Supreme Court to appeal the October decision from the York-Poquoson Circuit Court.

On Wednesday, the state’s supreme court accepted a pair of petitions filed on behalf of York County that look to overturn the lower court’s ruling that Greg Garrett and Anthony Bavuso may farm oysters on their properties without special permission from the county. York County Attorney James Barnett Jr. filed the petitions for appeal in January.

Because the petitions for appeal have been accepted — without a preliminary hearing where Barnett would have to make a case as to why the supreme court should listen to the full case — Barnett now has a chance to convince the court to overturn the Circuit Court decision. Barnett said a hearing likely won’t come until after Labor Day.

The petitions do not address whether Garrett and Bavuso are allowed to harvest oysters in the water, as the county does not have jurisdiction there. The question is whether they are allowed to use their land to facilitate aquaculture, as the county zoning ordinance applies to land they own.

Barnett said he received a phone call Wednesday from the Supreme Court that informed him of the court’s decision.

An email sent to Garrett was not returned by the time this article was published.

The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to listen to the elements in the case that concern county ordinance. The petition to appeal the Garrett decision said the court incorrectly determined that Garrett’s oyster aquaculture is not an aquaculture as defined in the York County zoning ordinance. Both petitions said the court ignored the requirement in county code for a special-use permit that would authorize the docking of workboats and the offloading of seafood in a residential zone.

You can read about other issues contained in the petitions by clicking here.

The long-running dispute between Garrett/Bavuso and the county stretches back to the original question of whether they need special-use permits to use their property in commercial oyster harvesting.

Garrett applied for a special-use permit in September 2010, but he withdrew his application after the York Planning Commission recommended the supervisors not approve the request in November 2010. In the summer of 2011, the county received photographs that were taken over four days in July of non-residents unloading oysters on Garrett’s property, which caused the county to issue a violation notice. In January 2012, the Board of Zoning Appeals heard Garrett’s appeal of the violation notice and decided Garrett was in violation. His case then went to the York-Poquoson Circuit Court.

In January 2011, the Board of Zoning Appeals decided Bavuso would need a special-use permit to operate his home oyster farming business. He applied for one from the Board of Supervisors, but that request was denied. Bavuso’s case also went to the Circuit Court, where the court ruled in favor of both Bavuso and Garrett.

Previous Coverage:

York County Files Petition with Virginia Supreme Court Over Residential Oyster Farming
York County to Appeal Rulings in Oyster Cases
Judge Rules in Favor of York Oyster Farmers
Circuit Court Hears Garrett Oyster Case
Judge Delays Ruling in Bavuso Oyster Case
Circuit Court to Decide Oyster Cases This Week