Friday, June 6, 2014

Myths about oyster farming &/or Garrett oyster farm & Dandy map of businesses

Tim Cross,
Please include these Myths and the Dandy Business Map (attached) in the package for the SUP. There are 54 existing businesses in Dandy (only 254 homes). The information about the 54 businesses  was provided by the County staff from a FOIA request.
Also replace the old map with this revised map (attached) that shows that we will not be working on the West side (neighborhood side) of the Cove dock at all & it shows the 500'-700' distance from the staging area to the McCullochs & the Tillers.
These 2 attachments are VERY IMPORTANT.
                       Myths about Garrett's Oyster Farm & Oyster Farming
There has been a lot of misinformation and false accusations concerning my family's oyster farm and in this letter, I hope to clarify some of these myths and shed some light on the facts.  My family purchased our home located on Sandbox Lane in Dandy and almost immediately, it became apparent that one of my neighbors was opposed to any improvements we wanted to make to our home, property or waterfront.  This individual immediately began spending significant time and money calling in or filing complaints, writing letters, video taping & photographing us on our property, and even putting letters in my other neighbors mailboxes with these exaggerated &/or false claims.
Additionally, he also sued my family in hopes of preventing us from building a dock that was approx 700 ft away from his home, partially because it would "block his view". When we began our oyster farm he did everything in his power to shut us down.  Some of his tactics included spreading more exaggerated and false information in an attempt to prevent us from starting our environmentally friendly farm.  
Then he began operating his own oyster farm.
Then he was appointed as the Planning Commissioner for the district in which we both reside.  My family and I now are about to stand before him & others to seek approval to operate our family farm. 
To answer many of the myths and exaggerations about our farm and oyster farming in general, I offer this statement.    
Myth: That there is a big difference in land base (dirt) farms and aquaculture farms since aquaculture farms can lease many more acres of "underwater land" and bring harvest back to a small parcel to wash, sort, bag etc the harvest
Truth: Land based dirt farms can do the same thing. A land based dirt farmer on a 1/2 acre lot can go lease 200-2000 acres of additional farm land and bring every crop back to the 1/2 acre parcel to wash, sort, box, bag and sell
Myth: We will have a huge increase in non-resident workers that will cause problems for neighbors:
A gentleman (one of Mr Tiller's tenants, l think) spoke at the May Planning Commission Meeting & said that "the number of employees at (Garrett's) oyster farm has increased over the last 3 years 20 fold"
Truth: 3 years ago, we had 1 or 2. Now l have 1, 2 or 3, depending on what is needed on any given day
Myth If approved, then the Garrett family home is basically being converted from residential to commercial use or that our oyster farm is NOT clearly incidental and subordinate to the residential use of the property
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "The scope of this endeavor clearly makes the property's residential use accessory, incidental, and subordinate to its commercial use.....with the size and scale of this operation the use of the piers and most every other aspect of his residence for the purpose of oystering will become the predominant use" 
Truth: We will be using less than 1/2 of 1% of our land for washing, sorting & bagging oysters. We will use less than 1% of our land for storing equipment or temporarily storing oysters in a cooler in our garage. Otherwise, our oyster farmers will walk across our land to go from the docks to waterfront to staging area to the garage
Myth Somehow this oyster farm is going to ruin the Dandy neighborhood:
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "For a home occupation this project is anything but innocuous; to the contrary it is flat out odious....Can you imagine the nonstop disturbance-of-the-peace associated with this? " 
Truth We have not been told of a single complaint to the County in 5 years, all while we were confident that we would NEVER have to seek a Special Use Permit. Mr McCulloch was unhappy one night that we were powerwashing too late
MythThe worse part will be all the trucks, noise & smell
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "All of this work will be out of doors, on-premises, within earshot, eyeshot, and smellshot from our property and home...The excess noise will be constant....Consider the yelling that will have to take place so that the nonresident employees can communicate with each other over the sound of power washers running all day....and turn(ing) the cove and its surrounding shoreline into an echo chamber of noise" 
Truth: The only trucks have been a basic UPS van and a pick-up truck. The noisiest piece of equipment has been a 7 hp power washer used 250'-500' away from the closest dwellings. Both neighbors have had 5 years to complain or tape the noise (if there was any). I even offered to give both neighbors a decibel meter a few years ago. There has NEVER been any smell. As a matter of fact, Supervisor Tom Shepperd came to our home 2-3 years ago and could not hear the power washer on our river dock when he parked his car at our property line and cut off his engine
Myth: Cages have to be washed every day:
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010:
"....before rushing to judgment I did some research and spoke with several oyster farmers and processors around the Chesapeake Bay  .... this is a rather nasty aesthetic impact as these devices are exposed and cleaned on a daily basis in the summertime... During warm water months these devices must be hauled and cleaned and replaced every two weeks...Cleaning means high pressure power washing and manual scrubbing, a mandatory component to oyster cultivation"
Truth: We have not purposely washed our oyster cages in over 2 years, except the washing that occurs when we are washing oysters if they are still in a cage. Regularly washing cages is not needed
Myth: That Dandy is purely a "residential neighborhood"
Truth: There are 54 known businesses in Dandy out of the 254 homes (map attached)
Myth: That our oyster farm is one of the BIGGEST in the Chesapeake Bay.
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "By any measure when discussing Mr. Garrett's plan with experienced oyster growers, even when compared to major oyster processing operations, this is a large...One might argue that except for scale the Seaford Scallop Company is more materially similar "
Truth: This is completely false. Our oysters farm is conducted on 9 acres of leased oyster grounds, on which we farm a small portion. We also have some other oyster grounds too far away from our home to effectively work on & we are not actively farming. Large oysters grounds in the Bay area are well over 1000 acres, with some oyster harvesters having over 3000 acres. Also, we DO NOT "process" oysters on our farm. In the oyster business, "processing" is when you open (shuck) them
Myth:  That somehow our oyster farm, even though MUCH further way from Mr McCulloch & any other neighbors, will somehow have a greater negative impact on the McCullochs & other neighbors than McCullochs commercial oyster operation
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "All of this work will be out of doors, on-premises, within earshot, eyeshot, and smellshot from our property and home.  It cannot be done without negatively impacting aesthetics.  Our rights to peaceful enjoyment outside the home should not be diminished because of "market conditions" in the oyster industry
Truth: We are much further away with LESS if any real impact
Myth: That the Cove is condemned for oyster harvesting
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "There are plenty of grounds in the York River, where depth, current flow, and space are much more suited to oyster cultivation than is the condemned cove.  Why should the cove be used at all for any commercial purpose?  Notwithstanding the fact the cove is condemned for the taking of shellfish due to the number of boats and slips therein....The fact the cove is condemned means all these oysters must be moved to suitable waters under the direct supervision of the Virginia Marine Police.  This means hundreds of devices and hundreds of thousands of oysters must be moved along my shoreline, my docks, my vessels, out my dredge basin and channel, along marina slips and vessels, to reach suitable grounds. Or they must all be hauled to the pier and then transported over land back into the water"
Truth: The Cove is not condemned. The water has been tested and has NEVER failed a water quality test. There was a time when the VDH didn't allow oysters to be harvested in the Cove, before they did testing of the water
Myth: That neighbors somehow have a "right" to the view across your land
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "We have built and paid for views and our right to enjoyment is an important aspect of this value". Mrs Tiller has also said that our oyster farm is "blocking her view" 
Truth: This is simply not true. l challenge anyone to prove this. This would mean that neighbors could prevent you from building structures or planting view blocking trees on your own private property. Mrs Tiller's assertion that we are somehow "blocking her view" is completely baseless
Myth: That I somehow attempted to "annex" Mr McCulloch's land
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "Mr. Garrett attempted to annex my land by expanding the private Sandbox Lane to a two lane road" 
Truth: This is simply not true. l did talk about widening the paved surface so 2 cars could pass(18' to 20' wide). Well inside the 50' wide easement, but never took any action. This is far from "annexing"
Myth The sound of the power washing is horrible, "unbearable"
In May 2014, CT Tiller was quoted on WVEC News as saying that the "sound from the power-washer is unbearable"
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: the number of devices being cleaned every two weeks will mean that by the time one cycle is finished the next begins and multiple power washers will be required to run simultaneously.  100 to 150 cleanings per hour.  The disturbance will be practically endless and this is just the cleaning process of the devices. Combine this with the cleaning of the docks and other processes that go along with growing and handling and processing hundreds of thousands of oysters and allowing such an endeavor would be unforgivable.  Frankly, a marina is less disruptive
Truth: We have been averaging less than 3 hours a day with a 7 hp power-washer (our lawn mower has a 15 HP motor) cleaning oysters, not cages. We don't even come close to violating the noise ordinance. We currently power-wash over 200' from McCulloch's house and over 400' from Tillers. If the Special Use Permit (SUP) is approved, we will only power-wash in the staging area, approx 500' from the McCulloch's house & approx 700' from the Tillers
Myth: We will be shucking hundreds of thousands of oysters
Quote from McCulloch's 9 page letter to the PC in 2010: "(Garrett will be) shucking hundreds of thousands of oysters"
Truth: We ONLY sell oysters still in shell. We do NOT sell shucked oysters and have not sold even one in the last 5 years
Myth That somehow l committed in a letter never to do anything like an oyster farm at our home
Truth: In a letter dated May 22nd, 2006, after a May 17th front page Daily Press story titled, "Dock Makes Waves" that basically accused us of wanting to build our docks to operate a commercial facility, we sent a letter to our neighbors stating that we were responding to "misinformation & speculation"  about "rumors of our intentions "
The letter said that "we would not convert our home into some type of commercial venture" (meaning marina, shipyard etc). To "covert our home" into something else, would mean that it would cease to be a home. We didn't have plans for an oyster farm then, but we do not see an oyster farm as the type of "commercial venture" that we were defending against from this innuendo published in the Daily Press. To further illustrate the type of "rumors of our intentions" that were going around at the time, you need to see Tim McCulloch's letter to the editor also published in the Daily Press in May, that speaks of us "wanting to build a marina, amusement park & conference center"
Myth: If the Zoning Ordinance in York County is not changed before Dec 31st 2014  to eliminate agriculture that "anyone in Dandy (or York County) can start a LARGE SCALE SEAFOOD BUSINESS in their yard, shed, garage". This was stated in item #8 & #14 in an anonymous blue flyer that was placed in mailboxes all over Dandy in last month
Truth:  Not true, after Dec 31st York County will be like the rest of Virginia, in that aquaculture can be conducted wherever land is zoned for agriculture ... But the vast majority of "LARGE SCALE SEAFOOD BUSINESSES" are not aquaculture farms & therefore cannot be conducted in areas zoned to allow agriculture
Myth: Denying this SUP will stop our oyster farm & will be good for Dandy or at least the only 2  neighbors that can see our oyster farm (McCulloch & Tiller)
Truth: Denying this SUP will not stop the oyster farm. It will only mean that MUCH larger vessels (barges/houseboats etc) will be obtained to continue to conduct the oyster farm outside of York County's jurisdiction, in the Cove closer to these 2 neighbors. This operation will have no restrictions on noise, hours-of-operation, number-of-workers, distance-for-power-washing etc. We will have to run a louder generator on the new vessels to keep the coolers cooling all night long when we are holding oysters overnight for morning shipments. All oyster operations will be conducted over state waters currently leased. In other words the oyster farm could operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week w/ unlimited workers, unlimited machines w/ unlimited size,  and unlimited noise MUCH closer to neighbors. Even if the SUP is NOT approved, we will not conduct our family farm in an overtly offensive manner... Remember, we live there, not 500' away !! 
Greg Garrett 
offices in Hpt Rds from Chesapeake to Williamsburg
Licensed in Virginia
cell # 757-879-1504

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