Judge partially rejects neighbors’ attempts to stop construction of Virginia Beach’s 3rd-tallest building

Virginia Beach

Judge leaves open possibility for amended lawsuit

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A judge has sided with the city in rejecting many of the arguments from neighbors trying to stop the third tallest building in Virginia Beach from being built.

In a ruling from Virginia Beach Circuit Court Judge Anne Bonwill Shockley in late July, Shockley dismissed all but two of the seven counts brought by several condo associations against the City of Virginia Beach and Westminister-Canterbury. In her analysis, she alluded several times that the property owners “fails to state facts sufficient” to prove the City Council acted unlawfully.

The suit, filed last October, asked the judge to void City Council’s vote approving a $250-million expansion project to Westminster-Canterbury on the Chesapeake Bay, an upscale retirement community. The expansion would add a 22-floor living building, parking garage and a seven-story tall assisted living building to the campus.

The neighboring property owners allege the taller building will obstruct their scenic view, increase pedestrian traffic if new beach access in the area is created, deprive them of “rights to light and air” due to shade and shadows created by the new building, and decrease property values, among other things.

But the judge did not entertain the notion that City Council violated a “use regulation” meant to cap “housing for seniors and disabled persons or handicapped” at 165 feet when it voted on the project.

“Virginia Beach City Zoning Ordinance … says that ‘[t]he city council may, for good cause shown and upon a finding that there will be no significant detrimental effects on surrounding properties, allow reasonable deviations from … [h]eight restrictions’,” Shockley wrote.

She went onto say the condo owners didn’t allege that City Council didn’t find that there would be no detrimental effects.

The judge did leave open the possibility for the condo owners’ legal team to amend one of their counts and come before the court again.

“It’s not over, not yet,” Jeanne Lauer, the attorney for the condo owners, said Tuesday.

The judge also didn’t rule on the outstanding issue of relocating public beach access or the approval of pedestrian bridges, as it is an issue the City Council hasn’t addressed.

Currently, a path to the water cuts right in between the Casa del Playa condominiums and former Lynnhaven Fish House restaurant.

Plans call for the 22-story building to go right on top of where that current beach path is.

The developer proposed moving the path to the other side of the Lynnhaven Fish House property. Doing that calls for what is known as a “supermajority vote” or nine out of 11 council members to approve it.

The problem is, only eight members are available. Three recused themselves for a conflict of interest.

However, Westminster-Canterbury continues to move forward.

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“We are going to leave that beach access where it is right now,” said RJ Nutter, an attorney representing Westminster-Canterbury. “We may just end up having two.”

While Virginia Beach planning staff said final plans for the development haven’t been received, as it stands, the building would have to be built around the public path in some way.

It’s something Todd Solomon, with the Shore Drive Community Coalition, said neighbors need to know more about.

“If they are going to move forward without even having that decision and saying, ‘forget you were putting it right on that property and not moving it,’ that’s going to upset a lot of people,” Solomon said.

Nutter explained the senior living committee would be constructed first and that community engagement would occur beforehand.

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