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By land and by sea, York County zeros in on property rights

Virginia state Delegate Brenda Pogge says 'downzoning' encroaches on property rights -- and flies in the face of legislative intent.
Virginia state Delegate Brenda Pogge says 'downzoning' encroaches on property rights -- and flies in the face of legislative intent.Courtesy photo

State Delegate Brenda Pogge says “politics, not sound commonsense” are driving an Eastern Shore county campaign to zone out agricultural activities.

“Downzoning always results in a loss of property rights, and we may be looking at 5,000 to 7,000 citizens losing freedoms that they already enjoy,” Pogge said.

York County sued two oyster fishermen — Greg Garrett and Anthony Bavuso — in an effort to shut down their small, home-based operations.

Bavuso calls the litigation part of a larger campaign against landowners.

“The county is using oysters as an excuse. They’re carrying out an urbanization agenda involving high-density projects,” he said.

The mainly rural county had a population of 55,000 in 2012. York politicians would like to see that figure grow.

Supervisor Tom Shepperd, in a TV interview, said the Virginia General Assembly’s nearly unanimous passage of broad freedom-to-farm legislation triggered the county’s reaction.

“When they came back to us with (House Bill 1089), they forced us to do what everyone else is doing, which is to pretty much have a one-size-fits-all approach,” Shepperd said.

But John Moss, a councilman in nearby Virginia Beach, said he was unaware of other local jurisdictions “downzoning” in reaction to HB 1089.

Moss was at a York demonstration that protested the county’s proposed zoning changes. Pogge spoke at the event.

“I oppose the potential rezoning and will steadfastly support the right of citizens to reasonably enjoy the use of their own property within the law as they see fit,” said the Norge Republican whose district includes York County.

“The most ironic point to me is that this board of supervisors is composed of five Republicans. This doesn’t make sense from any angle — environmentally, economically or philosophically,” she told

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