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Senate Bill 1190 Impact on York County

posted Feb 6, 2011, 3:50 PM by Robert Bruce Alexander   [ updated Feb 6, 2011, 3:59 PM ]

--Thomas Shepperd; 


Dear Neighbors,


State Senate Bill (SB) 1190 needs your immediate attention and I recommend that you  write to the state senate and express your opinion on the issue.  SB 1190, introduced by Senator Norment, is titled “Aquaculture Production Activities: Authority of Local Governments.” The concern I have with the bill has nothing to do with aquaculture or farming, which I support.  My concern is with state government intruding into local issues.  


Here is some background on the situation leading up to SB1190.  In November, a resident applied for a Special Use Permit to conduct oyster farming from piers on residential property.  The application worked its way through the local planning process to a public hearing before the York County Planning Commission.  The public hearing was advertised by the County, the staff introduced the application, the applicant presented his points, residents were invited to make comments, which they did, and the Planning Commission asked questions of the applicant and staff before deliberating publically on the proposal.  After the deliberation, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny the special use permit.  At this point the resident withdrew the application and took the issue to Senator Norment, who in turn introduced SB1190.  If approved, SB1190 will prohibit local governments from requiring a special use permit for oyster farming.  In other words, local governments and its citizens will no longer be allowed to make input on the issue.  This is where I have a problem with the bill.


What bothers me most is why Senator Norment feels so compelled to act on an local issue for a single individual.  To give you some perspective, consider this.  There are over 8 million residents and just 40 state senators in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  This means that each senator represents about 200,000 citizens.  Yet, when the York County Board of Supervisors, which represents over 65,000 citizens tried to meet with Senator Norment on the County’s legislative program, which included issues such as funding support for education, transportation, and public safety, we were unable to meet.


Even more curious is that I cannot find a single instance where a local government in Virginia has requested that oyster operations be included in the Right to Farm Act.  No other county has brought this up.  To underscore this point, it is my understanding that the Virginia Association of Counties whose membership includes Virginia’s 95 counties, and possibly the Virginia Municipal League, will oppose SB1190.  Even the Virginia Marine Resources Commission has serious reservations, not only from a workload perspective, but also because of the potential negative impact the bill could have on the whole oyster industry due to health concerns.  One would think that a legislative action impacting a local government with over 200 miles of coast line would first be vetted with the local government.  It wasn’t. 


Local governments did not ask for this bill and I can tell you that residents near the site of the proposed oyster operation are very concerned about the scope of operations.  SB1190 will deny residents the ability to make meaningful input for future proposals.  And, if SB1190 goes unchallenged what’s the next intrusion by which the state government tells us what’s best for our communities?   Is this an overreaction?   Maybe, but for those of you who have fought and lost on the issue of street connections to neighborhoods because of state rules, you’ll know that it isn’t.


SB1190 is a “slap in the face” to York County.  By denying citizen input on local activities, the bill represents big government telling us that it knows what’s best for our communities.  The lack of thorough vetting with the governments and citizens it affects, the bill reflects a rush to judgment and an unfair consideration for a single citizen’s issue over the concerns of many.  We deserve and should receive better consideration.


SB1190 will come before the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee in Richmond, Monday morning at 8:45 a.m.  I encourage you to email the committee and express your opinion.  Here is the committee membership and email addresses:  Senators Ticer (Chairman), Whipple, Hanger, Watkins, Reynolds, Puckett, Ruff, Blevins, Obenshain, McDougle, McEachin, Petersen, Northam, Stuart, Marsden.  Here are their email addresses.  Simply cut and paste into the “To…” line of your email:;;;


Others that you may wish to include are:


Senator Miller,

Senator Norment,


Neighbors.  This is your opportunity to influence a bill that will impact our local government.




Tom Shepperd

District 5 Representative

York County Board of Supervisors


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