Seabeck oyster shucking plant gets county's OK

"Lawyers dove into a semantic soup Monday, debating whether a proposed oyster shucking plant in Seabeck is water-related, water-oriented or water-dependent.“If there was ever a project that meets these definitions, this is it,” said Bill Broughton, attorney for Jim Hayes, who owns the Hood Canal Oyster Co. The company has harvested oysters since 1985 and now wants to build a $500,000 to $1 million oyster-shucking plant. Hayes received approval for the project Aug. 3 from the county’s hearing examiner pro tem, Richard Shattuck.But four people who own property adjacent to the project site appealed that decision to the County Commissioners. Their attorney, James Tracy, argued before the commissioners Monday that although Shattuck found the project water-related, he did not find it water-dependent. Tracy said the project therefore did not qualify for the six permits and variances Shattuck approved. Tracy also objected to putting the commercial operation in a rural residential zone, calling it as inappropriate as “a pig in a living room.”But the commissioners disagreed with Tracy and voted to allow Hayes to continue his project. They concluded that oyster processing is water-related, and oyster delivery by barge is water-dependent.Commissioner Tim Botkin called the project “pretty sensitive to the environment.” He also said “oyster aquaculture gathering is consistent with who we are and what our policies are.”“Maybe a pig in a living room is inappropriate, but there are some pot belly (pigs) out there, so in some cases it is appropriate,” said Botkin, turning Tracy’s analogy around and drawing a laugh from some observers.Commissioner Chris Endresen said oyster processing is “definitely a water-dependent use. You can’t process oysters on dry land.” Hayes said he plans to start building the shucking plant as soon as possible. Although he wanted to employ 25-30 people and operate the shucking plant from 6 a.m.-6 p.m., the Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District has limited the operation to four employees working from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.And just as Hayes received no complaints in the 14 years he harvested oysters on the canal, he expects to have no complaints from neighbors about this new operation.“They won’t see anything. It’ll be barely noticeable,” Hayes said. "

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