VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Palm trees planted within 15 feet of the seawall at the Cavalier Beach Club will need to be removed, according to the local commander of the Army Corps of Engineers.
In a September letter sent to Gold Key/PHR and the City of Virginia Beach, Col. Patrick Kinsman with the Army Corps of Engineers explained federal guidelines ban any vegetation near the seawall because of the potential that roots and repetitive earthwork could damage the structural integrity.
The issue first arose last spring during an annual inspection of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront seawall. Engineers with the Corps noticed the palm trees lining the back of the recently reopened club that sits on the beach off Atlantic Avenue.
A Corps engineer told 10 On Your Side that the developer didn’t seek permission to alter a federal project as required.
While Virginia Beach Water Resources Engineer Phill Roehrs disagreed with the Corps’ position, he said last August that an “after-the-fact” request to the Corps was made. Kinsman did grant several of the developer’s requests made in a letter dated February 28, 2018, which included the installation of a short retaining wall, fencing and wood decking, but the trees still have to go.
“While this issue has taken several months to resolve, in our view the Corps of Engineers is being reasonable,” said Acting City Manager Tom Leahy in a letter to city council last week.
However Bruce Thompson, CEO of Gold Key/PHR, calls the decision “extremely disappointing.”
“I have no idea (why) when we remove them every two years, everyone thinks the palm trees will damage the concrete seawall. But (people still believe that), and we will remove them,” Thompson said. “It’s the only vertical tree that stands a chance in this environment. We think from a design standpoint, verticality is crucial to the overall resort design and what sets our properties apart from others.”
Thompson isn’t the only property owner who may have to make changes to appease the Corps, Leahy says.
“There are a few problematic encroachments in the North Beach area, significantly beyond the scope approved by City Council that may ultimately be considered as modifications or alterations to the federal flood protection project,” Leahy wrote.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Leahy said they hope to open up a dialogue with all property owners affected on the best way to move forward.
“We are going to work our way through it.”