The cases of two York County oyster farmers locked in a longrunning battle to commercially farm and harvest oysters at their homes without a special-use permit will go before the Virginia Supreme Court for oral argument Monday.
The cases were accepted by the supreme court in May. They stem from the county’s petitions of appeal of a pair of decisions in York-Poquoson Circuit Court that sided with the two farmers, Greg Garrett and Anthony Bavuso. It’s up to York County Attorney James Barnett Jr. to argue the petitions before the supreme court to convince the justices to overturn the lower court’s decision.
The petitions don’t address whether Garrett and Bavuso are allowed to harvest oyters in the water as the county does not have jurisdiction there. The question centers on whether they’re allowed to use their land to facilitate aquaculture, as the county’s zoning ordinance does apply to the land they own.
The supreme court will listen to the elements in the case that concern the county’s ordinance. The petition to appeal the Garrett decision said the court incorrectly determined that Garrett’s oyster aquaculture is not aquaculture as defined in the county’s 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 dispute between Garrett/Bavuso and the county goes back to the original question of whether they need permits to use their property in commercial harvesting.
Garrett applied for one of the permits in Spetember 2010 but withdrew his application after the York County Planning Commission recommended in November of that year that the supervisors not approve the request. In the summer of 2011, the county received photographs taken over four days of non-residents unloading oysters on Garrett’s property, causing a violation notice to be issued.
In January 2012, the Board of Zoning Appeals heard Garrett’s appeal of the notice and decided Garrett was in violation. The case then went to York-Poquoson Circuit Court, where judge Alfred Swersky handed down the decisions that prompted the petitions now before the supreme court.
Bavuso’s petition followed a similar path. He applied for a special-use permit to harvest the oysters, but the York County Board of Supervisors denied the request. Bavuso’s case then went before Swersky, who ruled on his side.