Oysterville Sea Farms in Oysterville, Washington — a small, coastal town that some of you may know from wordplay author Willard Espy’s memoirs — is in danger. The business has long sold soup and t-shirts and other items to tourists, as well as books, knives and buoys “since the 1970s,” according to a local paper. But Pacific County is putting the kibosh on all that. It turns out that the business isn’t zoned for retail sales.
“I’m really puzzled,” says the owner, who doesn’t see why the county would turn on a thriving business in the midst of a depression. He’s had to lay off six of his ten employees.
Considering that the county is just fine with his wholesale business, much of the complaint does seem a tad over-the-top. Indeed, the sea-food wholesale biz is nothing if not noisome, and this operation has been a going concern at that location since the 1930s.
I understand that zoning laws are often justified on property rights grounds, to defend neighbors against nuisances and the like in a consistent way. But there’s been a lot of research showing that zoning is usually just a means to reduce competition and deliver favors to some at the expense of others.
The complaint that inspired the crackdown was anonymous. In court, one sees one’s accusers. In regulation, one does not.
Finally, it is somewhat amusing, in a dark sort of way, that this business is being crippled by a “Department of Community Development.” Great job, guys.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.