Tim McCulloch wants you to know that this story isn’t just about two rich neighbors feuding.
It’s about a clash that launched a bill that, if passed as proposed in Richmond, could affect a whole lot of waterfront property — which, frankly, could lead to a bunch of rich neighbors feuding.
The bill is one of a handful in this year’s General Assembly that deal with oysters, humble-looking creatures with rock-star status when it comes to their potential to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
Tommy Norment, a Republican senator representing parts of the Peninsula and beyond, stepped into a hornet’s nest when he introduced SB1190 on behalf of Greg Garrett, a real estate magnate who wants to grow oysters in cages in the waters around his $2.5 million York County mansion.
In essence, Norment’s bill would allow just about anyone with a shoreline to grow and harvest oysters — a sometimes smelly and unattractive business that many localities now restrict, mostly because it tends to tick off the neighbors in posh communities like Virginia Beach’s Linkhorn Bay or Little Neck Cove.
In York County, Garrett petitioned for up to 1,530 cages, each capable of holding about 500 mature oysters, which would make his operation one of the largest of its kind in Virginia.
“I’m passionate about the bay,” Garrett said. “A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.”
McCulloch’s beef stems from the fact that Garrett intends to turn a profit on a venture that will place hundreds of oyster cages inside a small cove that’s overlooked by his own $2.5 million mansion.
McCulloch said he’s not only worried about his view — the floats and ropes and algae-covered cages that’ll be visible at low tide — but the other aspects of oyster farming as well, like the power washing of cages and the trucks that come and go.
“I supported the guy when I thought this thing was just a hobby,” McCulloch said, “but this is ridiculous. What if I had to sell my place? Who’d want to buy it with all that going on next door?”