[HISTORY: Adopted by the County Council of Dorchester County 9-27-2005 by Bill No. 2005-10. Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is declared policy of Dorchester County to preserve, protect and encourage the development and improvement of its waterways for the harvesting of seafood. It is the purpose of this chapter to reduce the loss to the County of its commercial seafood and fishing industry by limiting the circumstances under which commercial seafood and fishing industry operations may be deemed to constitute a nuisance, trespass, or other interference with the reasonable practices associated with the preparation and activity of and to handle, harvest, buy, sell, load, unload, transport and process commercial seafood, including, but not limited to, boats leaving and returning at all hours, painting crab pots, chemicals, paints, dust, power tools, maintenance of boats and any and all other equipment, running and operation, noise, smell and presence of machinery and equipment associated with commercial seafood operating at any and all hours; provided that nothing in this chapter shall in any way restrict or impede the authority of the state and of the County to protect the public health, safety and welfare.
It is in the public interest to promote a clearer understanding between seafood industry operations and residential neighbors concerning the normal inconveniences of seafood industry operations which follow generally accepted seafood industry practices and do not endanger public health or safety.
This chapter is not intended to and shall not be construed as in any way modifying or abridging local, state or federal laws relating to health, safety, zoning, licensing requirements, environmental standards (including those standards which relate to air and water quality), and the like.
An additional purpose of this chapter is to promote a good neighbor policy by advising purchasers and users of property adjacent to or near commercial seafood operations of the inherent potential problems associated with such purchase or use. These potential problems include, but are not limited to, boats leaving and returning at all hours, painting crab pots, chemicals, paints, dust, power tools, maintenance of boats and any and all other equipment, running and operation, noise, smell and presence of machinery and equipment associated with commercial seafood operating at any and all hours. It is intended that, through mandatory disclosures, purchasers and users will better understand the impact of living near commercial seafood operations and be prepared to accept attendant conditions as the natural result of living in or near rural and urban areas. However, this chapter shall be effective regardless of whether disclosure was made in accordance with § 126-5 herein ("Right to operate Seafood Industry and Real Estate Transfer Disclosure").
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- COMMERCIAL SEAFOOD OPERATION
- Includes, but is not limited to, all matters relating to the harvest of seafood in Dorchester County, including boats leaving and returning at all hours, painting of crab pots, bait, salt, paints, dust, power tools, maintenance of boats and any and all other equipment, running and operation, noise, smell and presence of machinery and equipment associated with commercial seafood operating at any and all hours but not limited to workers, boats, generators, ice making, refrigerated trucks, chum trucks, boilers, steam generators, cooking, fork lifts, heating equipment, cooling equipment, soft crab shedding equipment, tanks, pallets, cooking baskets and drums.
- GENERALLY ACCEPTED SEAFOOD INDUSTRY PRACTICES
- Those methods used in connection with the commercial seafood and fishing industries which do not violate applicable federal, state or local laws or public health safety and welfare and which are generally accepted commercial seafood and fishing practices in the commercial seafood and fishing industry. Generally accepted seafood industry practices include practices which are recognized as best management practices and those methods which are authorized by various governmental agencies, bureaus and departments. If no generally accepted seafood industry practices exist or there is no method authorized by those agencies mentioned herein which governs a practice, the practice is presumed to be a generally accepted seafood industry practice.
- HEALTH OFFICER
- The Director of the Health Department for Dorchester County or his designee.
- All real property within the boundaries of Dorchester County and all territorial waters, rivers, bays and creeks located within Dorchester County.
A private action may not be maintained with respect to a seafood industry operation on the grounds that the seafood industry operation interferes or has interfered with the use or enjoyment of property, whether public or private, if:
The seafood operation has been under way for a period of one year or more and if the operation or any future change in the operation did not constitute a nuisance from the date the operation or change in the future operation began; and
The seafood operation is conducted substantially in accordance with generally accepted seafood industry practices.
Notwithstanding any provision of this section, no action alleging that a seafood industry operation has interfered with the reasonable use or enjoyment of real property or personal well-being shall be maintained if the plaintiff has not sought arbitration through Seafood Reconciliation Committee.
Nuisances which affect public health.
Complaints. A person may complain to the Dorchester County Health Department to declare that a nuisance which affects public health exists.
Investigations. The Health Officer may investigate all complaints of nuisance received against a seafood industry operation. When a previous complaint involving the same condition resulted in a determination by the Health Officer that a nuisance condition did not exist, the Health Officer may investigate the complaint but the Health Officer may also determine not to investigate such a complaint. The Dorchester County Health Department may initiate any investigation without citizen complaint.
After the Health Officer has completed his investigation, he will report his findings to the Seafood Reconciliation Committee, to aid in its determination as to the existence of a nuisance.
Seafood Reconciliation Committee.
If any conflict cannot be resolved regarding an interference with the use or enjoyment of property from seafood industry operations, the parties to that controversy may file a written complaint with the Seafood Reconciliation Committee.
There is hereby established the Dorchester County Seafood Reconciliation Committee, which shall arbitrate and mediate disputes involving seafood operations and issue opinions on whether such seafood operations are conducted in a manner consistent with generally accepted seafood industry management practices.
The Seafood Reconciliation Committee shall be composed of five persons, all County residents, all of whom shall have a seafood industry background, and shall be appointed by the County Council. Members of the Committee shall serve a three-year term; however, the initial appointments shall be as follows:
The Seafood Reconciliation Committee will conduct its proceedings in an informal manner and the rules of evidence shall not apply. In each case before it the Seafood Reconciliation Committee shall engage in nonbinding arbitration in controversies arising out of seafood industry operations, including but not limited to the invasion of property and personal rights by seafood industry operations.
If the Seafood Reconciliation Committee or a court finds that the conduct of a party in bringing or maintaining an action in connection with a seafood industry operation was in bad faith or without substantial justification, the Seafood Reconciliation Committee or court shall require that party to pay to the owner of the seafood industry operation (or any other party opponent) the costs of the proceeding and the reasonable expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees, incurred by that party in defending against the action.
A contract or an addendum to the contract of sale for any real property in Dorchester County shall contain in conspicuous type the following disclosure statement:
Should any provision, section, paragraph or subparagraph of this chapter, including any code or text adopted hereby, be declared null and void, illegal, unconstitutional, or otherwise determined to be unenforceable by a court having competent jurisdiction, the same shall not affect the validity, legality, or enforceability of any other provision, section, paragraph or subparagraph hereof, including any code or text adopted hereby. Each such provision, section, paragraph or subparagraph is expressly declared to be and is deemed severable.
Section headings, chapter headings, titles, etc. are for the purpose of description or ease of use and do not form a part of the text of this chapter or any code or text adopted hereby.
Except to the extent specifically provided herein, this chapter shall not discharge, impair or release any contract, obligation, duty, liability or penalty whatever existing on the date of its enactment. It is not intended hereby that the law of nonconforming use be changed, or that the court's rule of construction concerning the application of changes in the law during the pendency of actions be modified hereby, but simply that this chapter should not effect a change between private parties.
This chapter shall be cited as the "Dorchester County - Seafood Industry Right to Work."