VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — City Council again voted to delay deciding whether to make good on a promise it made to voters ahead of the 2021 referendum on flooding.
In an 8-2 vote Tuesday night, council members deferred for another two weeks taking action on a resolution that would have amended the city’s comprehensive plan. The change would require the planning department to recommend any new proposed development that generates “a net increase in water discharge demand” be denied.
In September, City Council unanimously approved a resolution saying they would make the change within three weeks if voters approved of the city raising real estate taxes to borrow $567.5 million to fund 21 flood protection projects. The referendum passed by nearly 73%.
However, since Election Day, members of the development community have pushed back with concerns the move makes the city seem “not open for business.”
On Nov. 10, the Virginia Beach Planning Commission voted 11-0 to recommend the City Council deny adding language to the comprehensive plan they already vowed to pass. Several commissioners who have strong ties to the development community said the whole process was moving too fast.
On Tuesday, Claudia Cotton, CEO of the Coastal Virginia Building Industry Association, advocated the council to again delay making the change.
“This amendment does not water down the standards,” Cotton said. “I believe it’s a dangerous precedent to run through a [comprensive] plan amendment this quickly when you have a process in place.”
She echoed statements from developer Richard “Tuck” Bowie that the Planning Commission should be given the opportunity to look over the change again.
“If there is concern with the optics of what your citizens voted on with the bond referendum, which I doubt, but if those optics are a concern, council can direct Planning Commission first before they do the rest of that,” Bowie said.
A move to do just that — return the amendment proposal to the Planning Commission — failed by a 5-5 vote. Mayor Bobby Dyer, Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson and council members Michael Berlucchi, Linwood Branch and Sabrina Wooten voted in favor. Council members, Barbera Henley, Rocky Holcomb, John Moss, Aaron Rouse and Guy Tower voted against. Councilman Louis Jones was absent.
A vote to approve the change also failed with the exact same members voting opposite each other.
“It’s planning document guidance, it’s not regulator,” Moss said. “I have a difficulty not keeping my word.”
Dyer said it’s all about finding “balance to him.”
“We are not saying we are going to throw this out, we are saying we are going to delay it to get it right so we can have that win-win for both sides,” Dyer said.
Berlucchi and Branch were the two dissenting votes on the motion that ultimately passed. It’s worth noting Branch was not on City Council when the original resolution passed.