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Appeals court sides with Driscoll in long-running conflict

Observer staff report

Published on April 11, 2018 2:59PM

Last changed on April 11, 2018 3:09PM

Oysterman Dan Driscoll on Tuesday won a Washington State Court of Appeals case. The ruling clears the way for him to go back to running his Oysterville business as he was a decade ago, before Pacific County began attempting to strictly curtail the products he was permitted to sell, and where his customers could consume them.

OBSERVER 2013 FILE PHOTO

Oysterman Dan Driscoll on Tuesday won a Washington State Court of Appeals case. The ruling clears the way for him to go back to running his Oysterville business as he was a decade ago, before Pacific County began attempting to strictly curtail the products he was permitted to sell, and where his customers could consume them.

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OYSTERVILLE — Dan Driscoll is within his rights to sell beer, wine and seafood picnic-type items while providing limited seating for customers at his historic oyster-processing market on the shore of Willapa Bay, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled April 10.

This may end an expensive regulatory onslaught than began more than a decade ago. The county asserted, among other things, that clam chowder is not a seafood-related product.

The Pacific County Department of Community Development had asked the Court of Appeals to overturn decisions by local district and superior courts that were largely in Driscoll’s favor. Although Driscoll’s family has operated Oysterville Sea Farms for generations, the county said that by offering additional retail products and providing a place to consume them, Driscoll went beyond what is allowed by zoning and shoreline regulations.

Driscoll and his supporters said the county’s opposition to his business practices was a classic case of intrusive government overreach, while county officials took the position that permitting a wider variety of products to be sold and consumed at the Oysterville facility would set a precedent for additional commercial development elsewhere along the bayshore.

The Court of Appeals rejected the county’s arguments and even reversed a District Court ruling that Driscoll had committed minor zoning and shoreline infractions.

The bottom line is that appellate judges found no reason why Driscoll should not be allowed to sell a variety of products typical of seafood markets, including beer and wine, while customers are permitted to eat and drink their purchases while seated on indoor stools or outdoors on a deck overlooking the bay.

“I contend that throughout this long and difficult process, I have been the reasonable party,” Driscoll said Wednesday in a written statement. “I am and always have been anxious to work with Pacific County. Best available science and best available legal decisions are a legitimate basis from which Pacific County government and I can resolve this long, damaging, unnecessary conflict.”

For more details, see next week’s edition of the Chinook Observer.



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