Earlier this year I interviewed Greg Garrett, a Virginia oyster farmer who, despite working land zoned for agriculture, despite having seven different government permits for oyster farming, was still told that his business was "illegal".
County government officials looked at their 450-page zoning ordinance and found parts that they claim make his oyster farm illegal. He had to get a "special use permit."
When Garrett applied for the permit, the county turned him down. Garrett said they have it in for him because he supported opposing candidates for the County Board. Regardless of their motive, having so many confusing laws does give bureaucrats power to punish people they don't like.
So it's a relief that, last week, a judge ruled in Garrett's favor:
"Garrett is raising animals for food and, hence, comes within the definition of agriculture," Judge Alfred Swersky wrote.
As Garrett puts it in an e-mail:
"This is a victory for every Virginian who cherishes freedom, liberty, property rights, limited government, local jobs...
We thank God for the judicial branch created at least in part to stop elected officials from ... using their office to dole out retribution to non-supporters."
Is county board now embarrassed that it tried to shut down a legitimate business? No, its lawyer says he is "stunned by the brevity [of the ruling] and failure to address what I consider to be the main points."