Virginia Beach

VB City staff recommends a 'denial' in zone change for Pungo development

Planning Commission to vote Wednesday on

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) -- City staff has recommended a controversial development proposal in Pungo not move forward over concerns with stormwater runoff.   

The Harvest Farm development has been in the planning stages for well over a year. The proposal is to build 116 new homes and four commercial parcels on a little over 122 acres in "Downtown Pungo," according to documents from the Virginia Beach Planning Department. The parcels (one of which was the former Pungo Airfield) sit on both sides of Princess Anne Road just north of Indian River Road.

As part of the community, the homeowners’ association will contract with a local farmer to oversee farming on some of the site. 

The proposal to rezone the property goes in front of the Virginia Beach Planning Commission on Wednesday, however city planner Jimmy McNamara has recommended a denial "due to an incomplete Preliminary Stormwater Analysis."

"The Comprehensive Plan recommends that an evaluation of the upstream and downstream effects of a proposed development be conducted prior to discretionary action by the City Council to ensure that flooding does not occur as a result of a proposal," McNamara wrote in a report to the commission. "Without a high level of confidence that future and existing property owners will not be adversely impacted by the development, Staff cannot support the request at this time."

The move was applauded by members of "Stop the Flooding Now," a Virginia Beach group focused on bringing the issue in the city to the forefront. 

"I appreciated that the planning department did deny this at this point," said R.M. Marsh, a group member. 

State Senator Bill DeSteph is one of the developers. Last year, he told 10 On Your Side the proposal will keep all of their stormwater and run off from going further down into other neighborhoods.

The properties involved sit south of Ashville Park, a housing development where taxpayers are now funding improvements to stormwater infrastructure that has led to severe flooding issues. 

DeSteph did not return calls left for comment on Friday.

"Everyone is really trying to make sure that we get it right. It's not that we don't want development, we just want smart development," Marsh said. "I don't think anyone in Virginia Beach wants our community to be known as a place where you buy homes where it says buyers beware."

Marsh thinks all development should be put on hold until results from the Dewberry study are known. 

The city has partnered with scientists from Dewberry to study the issue of flooding as a whole. Studies will be presented to City Council early next year that include recommendations on how to move forward. 

In a September City Council workshop, Deputy City Manager Tom Leahy explained that development on previously undeveloped land will increase stormwater runoff, no matter what kind of new retention ponds are built with it. 


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