By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
YORK, Va. — Attempting to pre-empt Virginia’s freedom-to-farm law, residents in a York County community want local officials to ban agricultural activity in their neighborhood.
More than 130 Dandy residents have signed a petition asking the Board of Supervisors to ban commercial farming — a move to thwart state legislation restricting local government’s power to regulate agriculture and aquaculture.
With the state law taking effect Jan. 1, residents in the small suburb of Dandy on Tuesday are taking their case to the county board.
The Dandy initiative is modeled after new zoning rules in Seaford’s York Point, which prescribe “low density single-family residential development” where properties are “arranged and situated in a relatively compact subdivision setting.”
Virginia’s farm-freedom law – named after Fauquier County farmer Martha Boneta – restricts local governments’ ability to curb agricultural uses.
But York County Attorney James Barnett maintains that local officials can pre-empt the law, asserting that the county of 66,000 people could cite lot sizes and other considerations to quash farming activities.
York’s Peninsula land war comes amid a court challenge by Anthony Bavuso, a local oysterman. Bavuso asserts that York County cannot require him to obtain a special use permit for his oyster-farming operation at York Point.
Boneta told Watchdog.org on Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by the events in York. “Property rights and freedom are inseparable, and I am heartbroken that family farmers may no longer be able to engage in farming on their land,” she said.
“I think we have too many people trying to tell other people what to do,” said Joel Salatin, a nationally renowned ag-rights advocate and farmer in Swoope, Va.
“One of my restaurants I supplied with eggs when I was a teenager had a sign hanging up behind the counter that said: ‘A good monkey is a monkey that doesn’t monkey with another monkey’s monkey,'” he said.
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward