VB works to implement flood protection program following referendum vote

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — $568 million is the initial cost to protect the City of Virginia Beach as warmer, angrier, and higher waters are poised to continue slamming into the East Coast.

After Virginia Beach voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to raise real estate taxes in order to fund several fund flood mitigation projects, officials have begun planning the implementation of the program.

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“It’s all over the Commonwealth. It’s all over the country. It’s all over the world. This is going to be a problem for the region that we are going to have to deal with in perpetuity,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said in a Zoom interview.

City officials say phase 1 of the program includes accelerating flood protection projects currently underway and expanding to include several new projects. These projects will be built over the next 10 years.

The city is expected to pay off the bond debt over 20 years by increasing the real estate tax rate 4.3 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed value. To offset this increase, the stormwater fee will be locked in at the current rate until 2028.

Virginia Beach’s tax rate would still remain the lowest in the region at $1.03 per $100 of a property’s assessed value, according to city officials.

For a mid-priced home in Virginia Beach, that’s about another $150 a year in real estate taxes, but stormwater fees will be locked in place until 2028.

Hurricane Matthew provided a cruel wake-up call in 2016 when 13 inches of rain flooded high-end neighborhoods in southern Virginia Beach.

“We realized that things were changing and we have to adapt accordingly,” said Dyer.

Since then, engineers have crafted projects to protect homes, businesses, hospitals, the military, economic development opportunities, and more.

Under phase 1, New flood protection projects will involve a variety of systems including expanded drainage pipes, flood gates, and pump stations. Additional phases will require additional engineering studies.

The bond referendum will allow Virginia Beach to accelerate by 30 years a project that would have been a 40-year project under budgetary funding.

“We’re going to be able to get things going and start showing and demonstrate to the public that we are really being proactive,” Dyer said.

Planning on the flood protection plan starts immediately but city officials don’t yet have a timeline of when residents can expect to see heavy equipment, road closures, and construction noise that will accompany the progress.

Within three weeks of the election, the City Council is expected to:

  1. Adopt a comprehensive financial plan to pay the referendum debt and ensure all of the extra money generated by the tax rate increase is “lock boxed” for only stormwater improvements, and future stormwater improvements.
  2. Establish a citizen oversight board that will receive monthly briefings and provide City Council with briefings every two months on the status of projects.
  3. Amend the city’s comprehensive land use plan and require the planning department to recommend any new proposed development that generates “a net increase in water discharge demand” be denied.
  4. Vote to freeze the stormwater management fee through 2028.

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