Letter to the Community from President Danny Murphy:
October 17, 2021
RE: Marlin Bay Development Request for Withdrawal from City Council Agenda
I would like to sincerely thank everyone for your diligent and unstinting labors to preserve and protect the character of the Ocean Park neighborhood over the past year or so. While the withdrawal of the Marlin Bay Development from the City Council agenda does not end our efforts to find a reasonable and appropriate use (redevelopment) for these properties, I am sure it comes as a great relief to many of you.
There are many people to thank, honestly too many, so please accept this broad generalization and allow us to deliver our sincere appreciation on a more personal level:
- 1st on the list! Residents, neighbors & Shore Drive friends – the support and engagement shown by you has been both phenomenal and inspiring: phone calls, letters, emails, signs, social media posts, showing up, speaking, votes, donations, meetings and even more meetings.
- Organizations & boards – Unmitigated support from nearby Civic Leagues (esp. Baylake Pines & Chic’s Beach), and the Shore Drive Community Coalition.
- City leadership, staff and boards- It starts in our backyard: Bayfront Advisory Commission!! Members of the Planning Commission including Robyn Klein, David Bradley & Jack Wall. And City Council members: in particular Louis Jones, who gave his support and advice from the beginning, John Moss, whose support and advice was also pivotal, Michael Berlucchi, Aaron Rouse, Rocky Holcomb & Mayor Dyer who met with us and listened to our concerns and also Barbara Henley, Guy Tower and Sabrina Wooten. In addition, we would like to thank the city staff who played it straight and provided needed responses and explanation whenever asked.
- Wolcott Rivers Gates for critical counsel and stewardship.
- Local Media – Including 13NewsNow, News 3, WHRV & the Virginian-Pilot/pilotonline
- Last but never least, the leadership of Ocean Park Civic League – The board of directors, past directors and presidents, committee members and chairs. No one will truly know the countless hours and effort logged by these dedicated people to bring about this result.
To this wonderful community: please accept our most sincere appreciation for all your efforts.
Ocean Park Civic League President
The owners of the property where Marlin Bay Apartment complex was proposed have sent a letter to the city withdrawing the project from the City Council agenda. We support their request to withdraw the application and we thank the owners for listening to the community’s concerns and reconsidering the potential redevelopment of those lots. We look forward to working with them on finding a mutual solution to this and other projects within the community.
Write now, Right now! You’ve written before, but please write again. This is the final lap for this long 18 month process. The City Council will make the final decision to approve or not approve the Marlin Bay Development in October. Residents of Ocean Park and Shore Drive should not be discouraged by the 7-3 vote by the Planning Commission.
The Marlin Bay Development is a 197 unit apartment complex of 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms with a 4 1/2 story parking garage being proposed in Ocean Park. The developers are asking the city to approve rezoning and B4 conditional use so they may build this large development which cannot be built under its current zoning.
What Can You Do?
Write to City Council members to explain why you are opposed!
The City Council will have the final vote on whether to approve this development. This vote will come at the October 19th City Council meeting. Mr. Louis Jones and Mr. John Moss have already committed to standing with Ocean Park residents against this project. We thank them! Write to the members of the City Council who will make the final decision and explain why you think this project is wrong for Western Shore Dr. and Ocean Park. To be sure that your email is officially recognized, please copy all these addresses: CityCouncil@vbgov.com; firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Why are Residents Opposed?
The Marlin Bay Apartment project is not consistent with the city’s own Comprehensive Plan.The City of Virginia Beach City Council adopted the current Comprehensive Plan in 2017. The City Council lays out specific goals for each area of the city in the Comprehensive Plan. In the Suburban Focus area section that deals with Shore Dr., the City Council sets forth Guiding Planning Principles to achieve a stated goal of Great Neighborhoods. Here are some quotes from the CP that show how inconsistent the Marlin Bay Development is with the plan that the City Council has adopted for Ocean Park and Shore Dr.
- “Our primary guiding principle for the Suburban Area is to create “Great Neighborhoods,” and “to support those neighborhoods with complementary non-residential uses in such a way that working together the stability and sustainability of the Suburban Area is ensured for now and the future.” ( page 1-60)
- “For example, new residential development on larger parcels should be consistent with the character of any residential uses in the surrounding area, as well as consistent with the guiding planning principles for the Suburban Area.” “Residential density in the Suburban Area should be low to medium where the surrounding land use patterns and densities are appropriate for such. Higher densities are appropriate for development in the Urban Areas.” (page 1-62)
- “Infill development on small vacant parcels within an existing neighborhood or on parcels being redeveloped should be compatible to the existing development around it. Designing a structure that is scaled and proportioned with surrounding development is typically more difficult than utilizing a design that simply fits the site and meets zoning regulations. The result, however, is a structure compatible with the neighborhood with respect to land use and design, and will give the impression to those who pass by that it has always been part of the original development.” (page 1-63)
|FACT: This project has a stated density of 31.77 units per acre. This is more than double anything built anywhere nearby. Recent projects in Ocean Park have been 14 units per acre. This is NOT lowest reasonable density called for in the Comprehensive Plan that is supposed to guide city decision making. In fact the effective density is 40 units per acre since the actual acreage being developed is not 6.2. |
|FACT: This project is NOT consistent with the residential area around it. The complex is predominantly 4 stories which will tower over the townhouses adjacent. The 4 1/2 story parking garage will now be plainly visible over the 3 story portion of the complex. |
|FACT: The Bayfront Advisory Commission was established by City Council in 1998. The mission given by City Council to the Bayfront Advisory Commission is: to review and make recommendations to the City Council regarding public and private projects and issues associated with the Bayfront area, and projects or issues associated with the Bayfront area that the City Council may refer to the Commission. Twice the Bayfront Advisory Commission voted not to approve the design for this project, finding it incompatible with the Design Guidelines for Shore Dr. due to the scale of the project, the massing and close proximity to townhouses.|
|FACT: The inclusion of an existing retail boat sales business makes the zoning change possible, but this retail is not ‘integrated’ into the Marlin Bay Apartment project as specified in the zoning language-as evident by the intervening roadway between the new construction residential building and existing commercial building. As defined by the City of Virginia Beach code (Virginia Beach, Virginia – Code of Ordinances APPENDIX A – ZONING ORDINANCE ARTICLE 1. – GENERAL PROVISIONS Sec. 111: “Mixed use: Two (2) or more separate uses allowed as principal or conditional uses that are physically and functionally integrated with the same structure on one zoning lot.” |
|FACT: Ocean Park Residents strongly oppose this development. The Ocean Park Civic League unanimously voted to oppose the project. The Bayfront Advisory Commission received hundreds of letters from the community voicing opposition. Residents have sent hundreds of letters to the Planning Commission in opposition to this development.|
|FACT: The Comprehensive Plan provides further specific guidance about development for three areas including Pleasure House Point. |
SFA 1.1- “Ensure that any development in the surrounding area is complementary with regard to both design and land use to the natural resource and open space amenity provided by Pleasure House Point.” This development would bring hundreds of people and cars which will impact this fragile natural area. The Brock Center counts on parking spaces on Marlin Bay Dr. which will be the only overflow parking available. Parking provided is the minimum required and does not reflect extra vehicles from multiple residents in 2-3 bedroom units or visitors to the 197 unit complex.
|Fact: Storm water is a concern for Virginia Beach. However Western Shore Dr. is not on the list of projects for the construction of flood mitigation measures that is in the Flood Protection Program Bond Referendum.|
Summary of Events so far…
- April 13, 2020 Mr. Peterson, the project developer, presents the Marlin Bay project to the board of OPCL on Zoom. The information in the developer presentation is shared with the community and feedback is solicited from residents. There was a lot of feedback.
- May 7, 2020 The proposal for the development of the Marlin Bay Project is discussed at the Ocean Park Civic League General Membership Meeting. Membership voted unanimously to oppose the project.
- July 16, 2020 A presentation by Mr. Peterson is on the Agenda of the Bayfront Advisory Commission. Many residents planned to attend. Mr. Shea said there were hundreds of emails and letters opposing the project. Mr. Peterson cancels the presentation at the last minute.
- October 15, 2020 A meeting was requested and scheduled with OPCL board and BAC and then was cancelled by the John Peterson, developer.
- November 19, 2020 John Peterson presents the project to the BAC. Bayfront Advisory Commission declines to approve the project offering to work with the developer to suggest changes.
- January 28, 2021 Meeting of John Peterson, ‘Tuck’ Bowie, Chris Wood with Lisa Murphy, their legal counsel and OPCL board members with our counsel. The same project presentation is repeated-no changes. This was the only meeting with OPCL after initial presentation. The idea of trading lots close to PHP in return for stopping the opposition to MB project is mentioned but the developer side commented “we don’t even know how that would be accomplished”.
- April 15, 2021 Mr. Peterson again presents to the Bayfront Advisory Commission lowering the unit number to 197 (OPCL not consulted or informed). The BAC again votes overwhelmingly to decline to approve the project.
- May 10, 2021 Official orange signs from the Planning Department are posted stating the project will go before the Planning Commission June 9, 2021.
- June 3, 2021 The city staff planner report is published. Mr. Dao recommends approval. The report states that over 200 letters were received in opposition and 3 received in favor. Staff Planner Report.pdf
- June 4, 2021. The McLeskey company requests deferment of the project from the Planning Commission Agenda in order to ‘garner more support’.
- June 22, 2021. Informal meeting between representatives of the McLeskey and Browning families-Chris Wood and Mark Rosenfield and OPCL board president and vice president. At this meeting Chris Wood and Mark Rosenfield pushed the idea that the lots close to PHP could and would be developed if MB opposition prevented MB from going forward. They did not bring up negotiation of any part of the design of MB. We expressed our strong interest in preserving the PHP lots but conveyed that there is no interest from the neighborhood in trading development of lots closer to the Brock Center(40 units) for MB development (197 units). We said we would be glad to participate in an open house to educate residents.
- June 25, 2021. The McLeskey lawyer requests in writing another postponement to September 8th.
- July 14, 2021. At the request of the McLeskey company, the Planning Commission grants a deferral to Sept. 8.
- September 8, 2021 Planning Commission votes 7-3 to recommend approval to the City Council.
- September 30, 2021 The McLeskey company informed the city of their request for a deferral of the City Council’s consideration of the project until the Nov. 7th meeting.
Mr. Hoa Dao
Department of Planning and Community Development
2875 Sabre ST, Suite 500
Virginia Beach, VA, 23452
RE: Marlin Bay Apartment Development & Initial June 9, 2021 Staff Planning Report
Dear Mr. Dao:
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with us last Thursday to review the initial June meeting Staff Planning Report on the Marlin Bay Development. Your professionalism and personal investment in your role are a considerable asset to the Planning Department and the City of Virginia Beach. As indicated during our meeting, I would request the following additions or alterations to any subsequent reports in order to provide a more complete analysis of the application.
- The Evaluation and Recommendation section of the report leads with a truncated discussion for the proposed project density of 31.77. “While the proposed density at 31.77 units per acre is higher compared to developments in the immediate surrounding area”. As we will explain below, the effective development density exceeds 40 units per acre. While the report is more complete when addressing zoning history (though there is an omission there addressed later), the report fails to offer a complete picture of the density of the properties surrounding the project and does not contain figures that would allow a determination of whether this project does in fact meet the Comprehensive Plan requirement of infill having “compatible density” and “preserving and protecting the character of established neighborhoods and achieving the lowest reasonable density for future residential uses.”. While the report cites the Comprehensive Plan in several places, the report does not include the Comprehensive Plan language about density. What is significantly lacking is any analysis of the existing density of the neighborhood in order to determinethe lowest reasonable density for future residential uses.
- What is the average density currently in the Ocean Park neighborhood? How exactly would the addition of nearly 200 units in a 1,400-unit neighborhood change density?
- What is the density of the adjacent and nearby properties? What is the average density for these properties?
- As noted, there are existing B-4 & A-18 zoned properties within the Ocean Park neighborhood. What is their proximity of these sites, when were they built, what is their density?
- The B-2 Boat Sales lot will exist separately without redevelopment as a recommended proffer. “In no case shall the area labeled ‘Existing Boat Sales’ and the associated parking lot be developed with any dwelling units.” Page 6, Recommended Conditions for Conditional Use Permit The stated calculation of 31.77/acre does not capture the effective density which would exceed 40 units per acre even including the area of the Clipper Bay Drive paper street closure. Thus, the residential apartment development of 197 units will only occur on 4.88 acres of land and would result in a density of over 40 units per acre. Page 3, Evaluation and Recommendation
- The rezoning and conditional use of the B-2 Boat Sales lot to B-4 (SD) is in significant conflict with the Comprehensive plan, Shore Drive Overlay District, Shore Drive Shore Drive Corridor Design Guidelines and city code for “mixed use” district zoning.
- As defined in city code, Sec. 111. Definitions, “Mixed use. Two (2) or more separate uses allowed as principal or conditional uses that arephysically and functionally integrated with the same structure on one (1) zoning lot.” The Boat Sales building is neither physically or functionally integrated with the same structure. To the contrary: In the proposal the boat sales building will be unattached and significantly separated by the primary roadway leading to and from the parking garage, building entrance and outdoor amenities. Page 12, Proposed Conceptual Site Layout.
- Per the proposal, the boat sales building is only slated to encompass one unit of 2,000 sq. ft. of retail or restaurant space which equates to only 16% of the space. Boat sales will occupy the remaining 10,000 sq. feet of the building. This does not represent functional integration.
- Furthermore, proposed plan indicates that additional space may be allocated to retail/restaurant, but this would only further exacerbate the report’s stated deficiency of required parking at the boat sales building site: “With the exception of parking area for the existing boat sales dealership located between the building and public street, that does not conform with the Guidelines…” Page 3, Evaluation & Recommendation
- As detailed extensively in the Mixed-Use Development Guidelines, adopted by City Council in 2004, the intent to “develop mixed use as a principal tool for redevelopment and as a preferred land use pattern in the Strategic Growth Areas (SGAs), and develop necessary zoning and other regulatory tools to encourage it” not in Suburban Focus Area 1 Shore Drive Corridor with adjacent residential single-family dwellings. Page 7, Comprehensive Plan Recommendations
- As stated in the report in reference to the Comprehensive Plan and Shore Drive Corridor Design Guidelines several critical facts have been omitted:
- The project site is contiguous to the City’s 118-acre Pleasure House Point Natural Area and as such requires “specific planning guidance”per the comprehensive plan: “Ensure that any development in the surrounding area is complementary with regard to both design and land use to the natural resource and open space amenity provided by Pleasure House Point.”
- In addition, although the project site is technically within the “mixed zone” for the Shore Drive Corridor, it sits on the dividing line with the “green zone”, Marlin Bay Drive. Page 3, Evaluation and Recommendation
- And as noted during our meeting the PD-H1 Mariners Landing Townhouses adjacent to the south was omitted from the Zoning History Map. In order to give a full picture of the zoning which surrounds the property, the single-family dwellings to the south should also be included. Page 2, Background & Summary of Proposal
Again, thank you for your honest consideration of these points in order to provide a more thorough and accurate report for the September 8th Planning Commission hearing.
Danny Murphy, President
Ocean Park Civic League
Dear Residents of Ocean Park,
For over a year residents of Ocean Park have actively opposed the Marlin Bay Development. We believe that this large development will fundamentally change the nature and character of our neighborhood. It will set a terrible precedent for inappropriately high density that could open the door for more similar projects in the future.
The strongest argument we have is that our neighborhood is unique and beloved for its character. Most of us moved here because of that special character that has been enshrined by the City’s Comprehensive and Shore Drive Corridor Plans. You have a voice in preserving our neighborhood. The properties at Marlin Bay Drive should be developed in accordance with the existing zoning and City planning guidelines: townhouses, duplexes and single-family homes, not a large high-density multi-family using erroneous mixed-use rezoning.
If you have not done so, please consider writing today to The Planning Commission members and City Council to add your voice to preserve our neighborhood from overdevelopment. So many residents have helped in this effort so far and we thank them. Join with us!
Ocean Park Civic League President
Who voted to recommend approval to the City Council: developers (Redmond, Graham), a lawyer who works for developers (including this one!) (Inman), member involved with development/building industry (Weiner), a former candidate for City Council (Oliver) whose “biggest supporters were developer Bruce Thompson, former mayor Will Sessoms”,who resigned after being convicted of conflict of interest charges.(Virginian Pilot), two who thought the project was attractive.
Who voted not to recommend approval? A social worker who said this is not affordable housing (Klein), a former budget director (Bradley) and an engineer (Wall) both who cited the insufficient compliance with the infill density called for in the Comprehensive Plan and the Shore Drive Design Guidelines. We turn to the real decision makers, the City Council of Virginia Beach. Make your voice heard. Please follow the links below and write to the City Council now WRITE NOW.
Here is a sample letter to the Planning Commission members and/or City Council members. Please make it your own with your own views and perspective. Any of the information on this page can be used as well.
Dear City Council members,
I am a resident of Ocean Park and I would like to express my strong opposition to the Marlin Bay Apartment complex that is proposed for Shore Dr. in Ocean Park. I am opposed to the change in zoning that would allow a project of this size to be built in our small, unique neighborhood. This property is not zoned for almost 200 units on only 4.2 acres. The impact on our neighborhood would be a negative one. I chose to live in Ocean Park because of it’s unique qualities, its small town atmosphere and its unrushed neighborhood quality of life. This project will change this community in a profoundly negative way and I feel this is unfair to me as a resident (and property owner).
This project has 31.77 units per acre. This is more than double anything built anywhere nearby. Recent projects in Ocean Park have been 14 units per acre. This is NOT lowest reasonable density called for in the Comprehensive Plan that is supposed to guide city decision making. This project is not consistent with the residential area around it. The Comprehensive Plan calls for new residential development be “consistent with the character of any residential uses in the surrounding area”. The predominantly 4 story building will tower over the adjacent townhouses. The 4 1/2 story parking garage will be plainly visible over the 3 story portion of the building on Shore Dr. This project is out of step with the Ocean Park community which is comprised of duplexes, townhomes and single family homes. This apartment complex is not like anything around it and will change what I moved to Ocean Park to find.
Please do not support this zoning change for the Marlin Bay Project. Thank you for your attention and your consideration.
If you would like to have a yard sign to display, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations toward the cost of the signs are appreciated! Donate with your credit card at: cheddarup-no-way-marlin-bay-yard-signs. If you would like to use PayPal: paypal-nowaymarlinbay.com/. You can also mail a check to: OPCL Box 55385 Virginia Beach, VA 23471
Bulletin: Thank you to all the speakers who appeared at the Planning Commission meeting! It is a measure of this close knit community that so many were willing to come out in the middle of a work day to stand up for the future of Ocean Park. Everyone did a fantastic job! President Danny Murphy said: “It was not the strength our argument that failed, it was deaf ears of the committee”. The vote went pretty much as expected: 7 to 3 in favor of recommending to the City Council that they approve this development. Since so many members of the commission are fervently pro-development, this was not a big surprise though disappointing. We also want to thank the commission members who were willing to look more closely at the issue and weigh in other factors: Mr. Wall, Ms. Klein and the newest member Mr. Bradley.
Residents who oppose the Marlin Bay Development should not give up! The real opportunity is coming at the City Council Meeting on October 19th. We can expect the City Council to be more receptive to the concerns of voter-residents. Our points about non compliance with Comprehensive Plan language about infill development and mixed use were not countered. We must press forward with those. Let’s work together to be heard!
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”