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York County to Seek Court Action to Stop Two Oyster Farms is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Oysters from the Chesapeake Bay (Photo courtesy VIMS)

Oysters from the Chesapeake Bay (Photo courtesy VIMS)

York County Attorney James Barnett will file complaints in court seeking to stop Seaford residents Anthony Bavuso and Elyse Pyle — husband and wife — as well as Dandy resident Greg Garrett from using their waterfront properties as part of their oyster harvesting operations.

One complaint addresses Bavuso and Pyle’s operation in the York Point subdivision in Seaford while the other deals with Garrett’s operation at his property in Dandy. The complaints could be filed as early as today, Barnett said.

WYDaily has a copy of the complaint against Bavuso and Pyle, which says the two have continued to use their property on Creek Circle in the course of operating their business, the Seaford Oyster Company, despite a January decision from the Supreme Court of Virginia that says Bavuso and Pyle need a special-use permit to use their property in the course of their operation.

Both Bavuso and Garrett cited House Bill 1089, which was signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday, when asked for comment on the complaints. The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, bars municipalities from requiring special-use permits for farming activities on land with agricultural classifications. Each of the oyster farmers’ properties are in land zoned for both residential uses and farming. It also adds aquaculture — the harvesting of food from the sea — to the list of farming activities municipalities cannot regulate via special-use permits.

“It is ironic that on Monday March 31 the Governor signs HB1089 mandated 128 to 5 by the General Assembly which clarifies that law has always meant that counties can’t require Special Permits for farms like mine that 3 days later on April 3 York County sues me for not having a permit,” Bavuso wrote in an email to WYDaily.

He said in another email that Del. Rick Morris (R-64), the patron of HB1089, identified York County as the only county in Virginia to have exploited a portion of the state code pertaining to protections of farming rights that did not include aquaculture.

Garrett, who had not yet seen the complaint against him when reached for comment Thursday, echoed Bavuso.

“Nothing would surprise me coming from York County,” Garrett said. “The state spoke loud and clear with a vote of 128 to 5 that aquaculture is agriculture. For them to spend more tax money pursuing a personal vendetta against two environmentally friendly oyster farms is proof that the leadership in York County has completely lost their objectivity to govern and serve the people of York County fairly. Hopefully this will be one more wake-up call for the citizens that the York County leadership needs to be replaced. They are elected to serve the people, not to punish us unfairly.”

Barnett said the decision from the Supreme Court of Virginia should end the matter. He said both Bavuso and Garrett continue to operate their oyster operations, which is a violation of the county’s zoning ordinance.

“The County has no adequate remedy at law to remedy the violation by the Plaintiffs of the County’s zoning ordinance, and an inability to enforce its zoning ordinance will cause the County irreparable harm,” according to the complaint.

Last week, the county announced it had received a petition signed by 61 residents of York Point who want the county to take action to bar farming activities from taking place in their neighborhood. County staff drafted a series of options for the York County Board of Supervisors to consider that would allow them to better regulate farming in areas zoned the same as Bavuso and Garrett’s properties.

The option recommended by staff would bar any farming activities from occurring on parcels of land smaller than 2 acres that fall into the resource conservation zoning designation — which constitutes the land in York Point — and rural residential, which is the designation on the land owned by Garrett. More than 6,000 parcels of land in those two zones are less than 2 acres.

“This just shows that the York County BOS is so bent on their political vendetta that they would take away centuries old property rights from thousands of citizens including mine,” Bavuso wrote in an email to WYDaily.

York County Administrator James McReynolds said the proposed 2-acre requirement is in the opinion of county staff “the most straightforward and all-encompassing approach to ensuring that a property is of a sufficient size to accommodate agriculture uses and aquaculture uses with adequate room for setbacks and buffers to protect adjoining properties and developments from potentially objectionable impacts,” according to a memorandum he wrote to the board of supervisors discussing the proposed changes.

The supervisors discussed the issue at their Tuesday work session, deciding to send the proposed zoning changes to the York County Planning Commission for a study. The results of the study are due back to the supervisors by June 30.

The new complaints from the county are not the only current legal documents pertaining to the long-running battle. Bavuso filed a request with York-Poquoson Circuit Court following the supreme court’s decision seeking to have the court examine whether he is permitted to operate his farm without a permit due to the Virginia Right to Farm Act and other language in the state code.

Since that request was filed, Bavuso’s parents, Salvatore and Margo Bavuso, and one of his neighbors, Jonathan Smith, have each filed requests based on those state laws to allow Bavuso and Pyle to use their waterfront properties in the commission of the Seaford Oyster Company’s operations. Scott Reichle, the attorney who represents all three parties, has asked for their cases to be consolidated into a single case, according to Barnett.

A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 28 for Bavuso’s request to consider the state code. The requests from his parents and Smith have not yet been added to that hearing date, according to court records. Barnett has asked for the court to consider on April 28 the complaints seeking to stop the two oyster farms, though a decision has not yet been made as to whether that will happen.

The Supreme Court of Virginia decision came after years of legal wrangling between the county and the oyster farmers. The case reached the supreme court after a York-Poquoson Circuit Court judge sided with the farmers and said they did not need special-use permits.

Bavuso, a lifelong York County resident, told WYDaily the Seaford Oyster Company has been in continuous operation since 2010. He said the oysters are harvested from the Poquoson River, which he grew up along. He began oyster gardening in early 2000 after considering the “desperate condition” of the Chesapeake Bay and the benefit to the environment oysters provide.

“Then I realized why not grow more oysters and clean more water,” Bavuso wrote. “Our oysters are filtering millions and millions of gallons of water per day and improving the condition of the bay right in our backyard and they taste fantastic!”

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Posted by on April 4, 2014. Filed under Local News,York Govt Notebook. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

20 Responses to York County to Seek Court Action to Stop Two Oyster Farms

  1. Another view

    April 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I don’t know if a change would be worded in such a way to allow the oyster farming at that person’s house In York Point to continue; I would guess they would restrict the amount somehow. But at least it would be better than considering a sale of one egg a year a full fledged commercial business, like “No Farms = No Food” said!

  2. york citizen

    April 4, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    I live next to an oyster farm, believe me, it is no fun. Power washing from sun up to sun down, workers in and out all day long, the smell, the mess. Thank you BoS for addressing this issue.

  3. GreatNews

    April 4, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    That is great news “Another view” about what Mark Carter said at the meeting about allowing people to sell their produce as long as it’s not the principal use of the property. If that’s the case, then I imagine they will drop this costly lawsuit of theirs against the York Point farmer. I saw the pictures he put up a couple years ago at his permit hearing. Didn’t look like a principal use of anything to me. I saw pictures of what looked like potato sacks of oysters being carried to a small pickup truck.

    That is great news!

  4. Another view

    April 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    In response to Krice and many others who make the same point that “This entire county was agricultural and fishing industry based when I lived here as a child,” the whole country was of course agricultural at one point, and before that it was probably hunting and gathering, but people continue to multiply and sell their family farms to developers, so I don’t understand that argument. Doesn’t everyone want things to stay the same as they first were when they arrived somewhere?

    And to “…lets not tie the hands of those who want to help restore the Chesapeake Bay back to a healthy state…” it is possible to leave the oysters there in the water and even plant them and provide habitat so they can filter away on their own, undisturbed. It’s also possible to not complain about ignore the environmental guidelines that prohibit waterfront property owners from clearing your waterfront of plant buffers. People can use less fertilizer so the oysters have less stuff they have to filter. I’m not saying people shouldn’t make a living harvesting oysters, but to say that all oyster farmers are motivated by environmental concerns I think is naive. If I see one with a nice vegetative buffer blocking their view of the water, I might be more apt to believe it in their case.

    And to Joe Citizen’s and No Farms No Food’s points about the difference between gardening and commercial agriculture, and the need for local food sources Mark Carter proposed at Tuesday’s meeting to change the language to ALLOW people in any zoning district (not just RR and RC) to sell some vegetables and/or eggs, as long as it’s not the principal use of the property –so the county is not against local food or against gardening.

    I’ve never lived next to someone processing oysters, so I don’t know firsthand how loud or frequent or odiferous it is. But it would be helpful to hear from more sides of the issue in the news coverage (not just this news source…). I wish these things could just be worked out between neighbors.

  5. The past is the past

    April 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I am also a 60 year old lifetime resident of York County. We are not the county of your youth and we will never be that again. You can’t live in the past with so much future ahead.

    York IS NOT trying to prevent Garrett and Bavuso from raising oysters. VMRC regulates this, not York County. They simply need to transport them by boat to a commercial or properly zoned facility. If Garrett would make nice with his neighbor, he wouldn’t have to go but a few hundred feet to bring his catch ashore at a legal facility. Garrett and Bavuso are using boats to bring their product to shore, why is it so difficult to take them to a dock that is set up for this?

    It is interesting to note that there are other commercial oyster men in York County. They also farm oysters and sell them to various markets. The difference is that these guys are working out of a local Seaford marina and quietly producing product without bothering a single neighbor. This marina is barely a mile by water from the Bavuso property.

    There is no reason for all of this fuss with the number of facilities available to land seafood product….legally.

    And folks. The argument that these men are helping the bay is merely a means to an end. Do any of you actually believe that if VIMS suddenly discovered that oysters were harmful to our waters, that Garrett or Bavuso would stop their very profitable ventures?

  6. Anthony Bavuso

    April 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Mr. Howell,

    There is a lot of mis-information being spread. I welcome you and anyone else who is interested to come and see our aquafarm for yourself. Please call me at 757-268-2719 or email me at and we can schedule something.

    Thank you.

  7. Krice

    April 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    i said it before, and I’ll say it again, now I know FOR CERTAIN that the county board has gone berzerk. To allow 61 residents of one neighborhood to set policy to effect the entire 50,000+ residents of the county is absurd. In addition, isn’t the health of the Chesapeake Bay important enough for these folks to “suck it up” and adjust? Who do you know that will spend the money to begin an aquaculture venture that will benefit the health of the Bay without seeing some sort of profit? Or at the very least, see it become self supporting monetarily? The only way for that to happen is for them to take the product to market, and the markets are ON LAND. They must have a way to land the product and transport it to market in order to continue the enterprise. I think the York Point neighbors should know better. This entire county was agricultural and fishing industry based when I lived here as a child. Let’s not forget where we came from, and lets not tie the hands of those who want to help restore the Chesapeake Bay back to a healthy state!

  8. No Farms = No Food

    April 4, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I would like to start by saying that I in no way consider myself to be a “follower” of Garrett or have any association to the Republican Committee that you refer to. What I am is an advocate for FRESH AND LOCAL foods!! Where do you think that LOCAL foods come from? Well they have to come locally. I have personally been buying eggs from my neighbor for 2 years now and they are delicious. This same neighbor has a wonderful garden that I thoroughly enjoy any extras they may send my way, and I would GLADLY pay a premium for my family to be able to eat these foods full of nutrients. This neighbor doesn’t have a “commercial business” in my opinion, in fact, he doesn’t have a business at all. But York County would consider this to be a FULL FLEDGED COMMERCIAL business if this neighbor even sold me 1 egg a year. There are no huge trucks, no huge chicken houses stuffed with thousands of chickens. The garden is beautiful and the chickens are family pets and my children play with them as such. We love it, and I am thrilled to have the PRIVILEGE to live next to it.

    You talk about property rights, well that is one matter that I do not choose to get into with you. But what about the rights of our generation and future generations to be able to get nutritious foods. Maybe some of us want the right to be able to CHOOSE to get food not imported from China. Wasn’t enough that our dogs were poisoned by chinese dog food a few years ago. Will we not see the problem with imported foods until our children get poisoned too?? I think our society needs to wake up and realize where the food they are eating comes from. 90% of our seafood is imported from foreign countries. That is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE to me!! I applaud these oyster farmers for not only providing local seafood, but for cleaning the bay while they are at it. I urge you to contact these oyster farmers directly. I am sure you could go see their farm. They would welcome you over to see all the supposed “harm and detriment” they are imposing on their neighborhood. I know that you have seen the wave across the county for Buy Local and Eat Local. I know you have seen the Farmer’s Markets appear all over. It seems to be the new “in” place to go on Saturday mornings. Please realize that these farmers can not and WILL NOT exist if people in our society continue to have a “Not in My Backyard” attitude.

  9. Joe Citizen

    April 4, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Interesting that you say they want to control the COMMERCIAL use of residential properties and not GARDENING. How does the law distinguish between them? The County attorney in an email to the BOS wrote that COMMERCIAL means ANY sale. So the difference in the law between a GARDEN and COMMERCIAL AGRICULTURE is that you sell you green peppers for 38 cents. You really want to control that? They sure do… Watch Mark Carter’s response to this question during the Tuesday night meeting…


  10. York Point Resident

    April 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Thank you for your support. A few loudmouths (most that don’t live in York Point-or didnt grow up here) have overshadowed the fact that the MAJORITY of the York Point Residents are against this operation. So, thank you for posting your support in a public forum.

  11. York Point Resident

    April 4, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Thank you very much for your support! With 1/3 acre lots- we witness and feel all decisions made by our neighbors. The ones that are for the commercial operations in our neighborhood are mostly those that have no pride or concern in keeping their own properties organized, clean and have even gone so far as to have trash and other debry laying around their property. So, not wonder why they have no concern for others around them. Again, thank you. And by the way-me and my family have lived here our ENTIRE lives-on York Point. So, the Bavusos are the ones that moved in and tried to change the dynamic of our community.

  12. Roger Howell

    April 4, 2014 at 10:38 am

    An aquaculture farm with just several water farming acres can involve daily operations and would have tremendous impact year round for close neighbors (road parking, additional traffic, noise, smell, unsightly storage, home values, etc.) Would you want to live in a quite subdivision next door to a commercial business? I support the 62 York Point petition signers for asking to keep their neighborhood residential. Oyster farmers should move their commercial operations to marinas.

  13. BornNYorkCounty

    April 4, 2014 at 10:00 am

    The members of the York County Board of Supervisors, the York County Attorney James Barnett and Administrator James McReynolds should all be held criminally accountable for the public waste of York County tax dollars over several years to stop two county citizens from legally harvesting oysters on river bottom land leased from VMRC. York County has used descriptions like “irreparable harm”, “commercial Oyster business” and “negative impacts” to describe these two oyster activities and for anyone who has ever seen what actually takes place at these two properties the whole situation is laughable! A recent communication to Tom Sheppard asking for him to actually define the “negative impacts” to York County from these oyster operations, still, after many weeks goes unanswered? It seems all of the negative comments from the BOS were only aimed at inflaming the emotions of citizens in the area, which in the case of some York Point residents has worked. Please, this is a very local issue to York Point that is spreading to other areas of the county because the BOS now wants to change county wide zoning restrictions. Due to the infinite ability of our BOS to govern poorly, they have taken the unhappiness of a few York Point residents and spread it over the entire county which is going to lead to a severe backlash from hundreds of York citizens. Tax dollars spent on this issue could have been better spent on York teacher salary increases or other areas that are positive contributions to the community. BOS it is time to stop this wasteful pursuit to shut down two oyster operations that contribute positively to our community. Lets manage our personal property assets in the county and not always try and shut them down.

  14. there is support

    April 4, 2014 at 9:27 am

    As usual, the purpose of the farming ban on small properties has been convoluted by Garrett and his followers. York is not attempting to stop property owners from GARDENING. They want to control the COMMERCIAL use of small residential properties. Be it farming or anything else. As a neighbor to waterfront property, I want the county to have that control.

    You folks are jumping up and down about YOUR property rights. WHAT ABOUT MINE? I don’t want my next door neighbor to be able to run a seafood business with all of the noises and smells associated with it. It will bring in hazards from trucks that are used to transport goods and additional traffic from customers. I spend thousands and thousands of dollars each year in taxes to live in my house. Property rights are not limited to the chosen few.

    Garrett has done a good job of inciting a small group of followers to lend their voices to his fight. But, it is always the same people. A look at the petition that is being sent around shows the membership of the local Republican Committee. Always the same people. He uses misinformation to get citizens upset and then push them to complain to the Supervisors.

    York County is no longer the rural area of 30 years ago. Zoning is necessary to protect EVERYONE’S property values. Those who would tell their neighbors to move if they don’t agree are childish and lack creditability. You hear that a lot from this group.

    On this issue, our Board of Supervisors have the support of the majority of county voters. We want them to stand up against those whose only interests are self serving.

  15. York Point Resident

    April 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

    No, actually York County is supporting the MAJORITY of the York Point Residents who live on small lots and do not want their NEIGHBORHOOD turned in to a commercial operation. Any one looking to purchase a home in a neighborhood-much less paying the premium for waterfront property-would not choose to live next to a commercial operation. Anyone who says differently is lying. Again, I stress that the RESIDENTS of this cozy NEIGHBORHOOD have voiced their opinion on the matter and as our elected officials, the BOS is listening! I find it interesting that this paper did not enlist the opionion of anyone having to live near the Bavusos that are opposed to this operation.

  16. karen diggs

    April 4, 2014 at 8:34 am

    The amount of tax dollars that York County has spent trying to put out of business legitimate,beneficial business’s should outrage all taxpayers! This has the markings of personal agendas by our elected supervisors. Whether you are interested in farming or not, you should be very interested in knowing to date what our county has spent in tax dollars to keep this going on, and on. I would love to see a newstory with those figures.

  17. David ware

    April 4, 2014 at 8:19 am

    All this “hard work” from the government parasites at York County takes place at the site where Cornwallis surrendered in 1781. Wonder how many men on either side would believe that the “government” in the new country would be trying to keep people from feeding themselves?

  18. Former York County Resident

    April 4, 2014 at 8:06 am

    In regard to their attempts to regulate aquaculture, York County has jumped the shark.

    Oyster farming has to take place in the water. This practice, imho, is a higher and better use of waterfront land than McMansions with sterile landscaping.

  19. Victim of county corruption

    April 4, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Stop the insanity York County! The taxpayers are tired of your personal attacks on small business owners. Can’t wait till the next election. We are going to clean house in York County! And hopefully seek criminal justice.

  20. Marjorie Hodges

    April 4, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I live in Crazytown!
    York Co. has become a laughing stock.

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