Thursday, February 13, 2014

Virginia General Assembly House Bill 1089 Will Negatively Impact Residents of York County

Dear Neighbors,


I am writing to express my opposition to HB 1089 and ask for your immediate engagement on this important issue.  House Bill 1089 will eliminate your ability to voice concern or objection in any meaningful way to the establishment of commercial aquaculture operations near your homes and neighborhoods.  HB 1089 essentially incorporates commercial aquaculture operations into the Virginia Right to Farm Act.  The problem this causes residents of York County is that commercial aquaculture is not a traditional farming activity.  Commercial aquaculture farming, unlike traditional land-base farming, may involve hundreds and even thousands of underwater acres.  After harvesting, the processing of aquaculture food products, such as oysters, and the storage of equipment may be accomplished on a very small plot of dry land.  This processing and storage can have a significant negative impact on surrounding neighbors due to the resulting odors, noise, and traffic.  These are not hypothetical problems.  We are actually seeing the negative effects of commercial aquaculture operations today in York County and it is only through pending litigation that these negative effects are allowed to continue.


The Virginia’s Right to Farm Act was designed to protect farming operations from encroachment by suburban development.  What HB 1089 does is to permit the by-right retrofitting of commercial aquaculture farming into well established subdivisions.  In doing so, HB 1089 denies neighbors and residents the ability to voice their concerns or objections in any meaningful way.


Local governments have long used the Special Use Permit process to provide significant flexibility in working with applicants and neighbors to allow multiple land uses within a given area.  The Special Use Permit process provides us with a means of voicing our opinions to our elected local representatives.  For example, during a November 2010 York County Planning Commission Public Hearing over 22 citizens expressed their concerns regarding an application to authorize seafood harvesting as a home occupation.  Subsequently, residents were able to voice their concerns to the Board of Supervisors through emails, telephone calls, and a public hearing.  It was the Special Use Permit that made this possible.  HB 1089 will eliminate the Special Use Permit process and the ability of residents to voice their concerns over commercial aquaculture operations near their homes.


I strongly recommend that you take a moment to consider the implication of HB 1089 as it pertains to your ability to protect your property and the quality of life within your neighborhood.  You can easily express your opinion on the bill by sending an email to:


Honorable Members of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.


(Cut and Paste email addresses of the committee members)








Tom Shepperd

District 5 Representative

York County Board of Supervisors


Home (757) 868-8591

Mobile (757) 604-3079



  1. Shepperd should be ashamed of himself! This is a gross and self serving misrepresentation of the truth of this bill!

  2. I respectfully but ardently disagree. The purpose of zoning laws and local government for that matter is not to insure the peoples right to use the power of government to complain about their neighbors. Everyone has a natural right of free speech but you do not have a right to be heard and you cirtainly do not have the right to drag your neighbor before the Board of Supervisors just to complain.

    The real issue is over-reaching local regulations that do not accurately reflect the appropriate role of local government nor address with specificity the problem to be solved. State legislators are responding to an outcry to protect Virginians from their local governments. I am calling on my Board of Supervisors to reform our county ordanances so that OUR rights are protected even if at the cost of YOUR power.

    In the case of HB1089 it is the county government power that is in jeopardy not that of the citizens. Our land use regulations need to be properly written to specifically regulate impacts on county infrastructure and real infringements on neighbors rights such as actions that can be proven to negatively affect property values.

    So until the BoS in York County is willing to reign in its own power, I welcome the Commonwealth to do so on my behalf and I support HB1089

    Robert Bruce Alexander
    615 Cary's Chapel Road
    Yorktown, Virginia 23693

  3. Robert,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on this issue. It seems to me that your position of my opposition to the HB 1089 focuses mainly on the authority of local government. To me, the issue is not a local government verses a citizen issue but one of a neighbor verses a neighbor or the neighborhood. It is the stifling of the voices of citizens on land-use issues, which may impact their homes, families, and neighborhood by a centralized government comprised of well meaning representatives that may only have a marginal idea of a local situation. Today’s local governments have a lot of flexibility in working to mitigate commercial aquaculture concerns. HB 1089 will remove the flexibility and stifle the voices of our citizens. It seems to me that a citizen’s ability to voice an opinion in a meaningful way in a democracy is an imperative for a healthy government.

    Again, thank you for the feedback.

    Best Regards,


  4. I agree that the approach of HB 1089 is less than ideal, however, the flexibility of local government is power that originates and belongs to the citizen. Also the ability to voice an opinion is not what is in question, but rather the "meaningful way" a.k.a. the sword of local government that can be wielded at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors.

    Regardless of the outcome of HB 1089 I urge you to examine the need for massive reform of our zoning and land use regulations. Consider the impact of such power in the hands of much less rational or much less moral people than we are now blessed to have on the board. It is possible that you cannot see the forest for the the trees. By only looking at the specific effect on your ability to use this power to resolve issues and do good, you ignore potential outcomes in more malevolent hands. Considering the times we live in with agencies of the federal government being used as political weapons, you may very well live to regret squandering your opportunity to dismantle this one potential weapon of tyranny.

  5. By the Way TOM we live in a republic, your job is to protect the people!The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
    —The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877