Shucking plant at center of controversy in Seabeck

"After a decade of planning, Jim Hayes thought he had all of his ducks in a row. His application to build an oyster shucking plant on Hood Canal was approved by the Kitsap County hearing examiner Aug. 3.But although Hearing Examiner Pro Tem Richard Shattuck put his seal of approval, with many conditions, on Hayes’ proposal, some Seabeck residents living near the project site are still lobbying to stop the development.County commissioners heard the neighbors’ concerns Sept. 27. The neighbors had to show procedural flaws in Shattuck’s decision, not simply discuss the merits of Hayes’ project.“That made it really one-sided, it wasn’t fair at all,” said Hayes, who was not allowed to speak in defense of his project.Neighbor Monica Robbins, a professional engineer, said she’d “never seen a project so much in conflict with existing zoning codes and land-use requirements.” To go forward with his project, Hayes had to obtain a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit, a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, a Conditional Use Permit, a zoning exception for the rear yard setback, a Critical Areas Ordinance Adjustment for the water setback and complete the State Environmental Policy Act determination of nonsignificance.Robbins and other neighbors were appalled that exceptions to all of these state and county rules were allowed. Robbins said the three-story commercial shucking plant would still have a huge impact on the rural residential neighborhood because it could destabilize nearby slopes and shucking waste could cause a smell.“But this is a perfect site for (shucking),” Hayes said later. “No homes are around and I already own this land.” Hayes added that the shucking plant needs to be located on the water because it is dependent on docking barges and distributing empty oyster shells back on canal beaches.Opponents of the plant say that shucking is not a water-dependent activity and therefore shouldn’t qualify for an exception to the Shoreline Management Master Plan.Although on Sept. 27 the commissioners indicated their intention to visit Hayes’ current Hood Canal Oyster Company harvesting operation, none were confirmed to have made a visit by Oct. 7. Hayes hopes the commissioners will see his current, quiet operation and believe the $500,000 to $1 million shucking plant will be similarly unobtrusive.But that decision has already been made: Shattuck approved Hayes’ proposed plant. What commissioners now have to determine is whether the hearing examiner made a legal, procedural error.The decision is expected this Monday.Despite this further delay of his project, Hayes said what frustrates him most is the neighbors’ use of an attorney to appeal the project further. “The county shouldn’t allow attorneys to get involved in this,” he said. “This is not a court case. It’s a waste of resources and now I have to get my attorney to fight their attorney.”"

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