VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A divided Virginia Beach City Council for the fourth time has put off following through on a vote they already said they would make.
In 6-5 vote Tuesday, a potential change to the city’s comprehensive plan — a change which says planning leaders must recommend denial of any new development proposal that increases the demand on the city’s stormwater system — was sent to be reviewed by the city’s process improvement steering committee before coming back to council members.
Mayor Bobby Dyer, Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson, and council members Sabrina Wooten, Michael Berlucchi, Rocky Holcomb and Linwood Branch voted to send it there.
Branch, who along with Dyer is the council liaison to the committee, said there is currently a review of the stricter development standards implemented by the city in 2020 and said: “the committee feels very strongly that taking any additional action at this time does not give the council the opportunity to have all of this information.”
Developers, several of which who serve on the committee and have spoken out against the plan change, say the city is making it tough on businesses.
“It seems that there is a lot of concern this only strengthens an ordinance we were trying to back off a little bit,” Branch said.
Branch, was the only current council member not serving on City Council when the body voted unanimously to pass a resolution ahead of the 2021 referendum on flooding. The resolution stated that if voters approved the city raising real estate taxes to borrow $567.5 million to fund 21 flood protection projects — they would amend the comprehensive plan.
The resolution said the change would be made in three weeks. However, since then the Planning Commission has recommended denial of the resolution twice.
looding poses problems for just about every part of Hampton Roads, but Virginia Beach is uniquely suited to get hit from every angle: the Atlantic pushes in from the east, the Chesapeake Bay from the north, the Elizabeth River from the west and the Currituck Sound from the south.
Council also approved its long-awaited “Sea Level Wise” plan. In 2015, the city hired Dewberry for $4 million to conduct the study to have a better idea of how much sea level rise to expect, how the city could fight back, and how much it would cost. Estimates based on scientific models indicate Virginia Beach should plan for about 1.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050, and 3 feet by 2080.
Council members John Moss, Louis Jones and Barbara Henley expressed frustration ahead of the vote.
“We’re not keeping the faith of the people,” Jones said.
Henley insinuated the continued delays are hurting the City Council’s integrity.
“‘The City Council is going back on its commitment.’ That’s what the media reported and that’s what is going to be reported again. I am not going back on my commitment to the public,” said Councilwoman Barbara Henley.
Mayor Bobby Dyer contends the intent of the commitment they made will eventually be fulfilled.
“I am convinced that what we are doing will definitely live up to the intent of what we did when we passed the referendum,” Dyer said. “Substantive changes I don’t think they’re going to be coming.”
There is no date on when the council could consider this for a fifth time.