What’s Wrong with That?

One way that the process of deciding land use questions in Virginia Beach is a flawed one is that it is a series of one way streets. There are few opportunities for exchange. When a planning commissioner makes incorrect assumptions or draws conclusions that have a strong counter argument, there is no way to add more information or make additional points. Like what?

Mr. Inman mischaracterized the position of Ocean Park residents when he said that we oppose this development because we don’t like the design of the apartments-that we want ‘more aesthetics’. He fails to say anything about the main tenet of the opposition: we do not agree with the high density of the project and it does not comply with ‘infill development’ guidelines in the Comprehensive Plan and Shore Drive Design Guidelines. He also says that what would be developed in the residential part under current zoning would have a higher density. That is simply incorrect. PDH1 zoning would not allow 40 units per acre.

Mr. Horsley said that he understood that the project’s density is higher than the neighborhood wants. He said that he himself couldn’t stand to live where things are “so tight”. And then voted to radically increase the population in the already densely settled area.

Mr. Coston did not acknowledge or address any of the questions about density, mixed use or any other concern. “Money is what money is”. Not sure what that means. He thinks Peterson is a reputable developer so that makes it all ok.

Mr. Weiner made the point that 10 years ago he joined his neighbors to oppose an apartment complex in Kempsville, in his backyard. He says, ” and now wow, we don’t even know anyone who lives there.” Like that’s a good thing. Not knowing and not wanting to know your neighbors is the antithesis of how people live in Ocean Park.

Mr. Wall did not vote to recommend approval citing language from the Comprehensive Plan and the fact that the BAC did not approve the project. He did make the statement that he thought that ‘nothing would satisfy the homeowners in the neighborhood.’ It would be helpful to be able to address statements like this: residents are not asking to preserve the boat trailer lot. We, in fact, would be satisfied if a plan were offered that fit in with the surrounding properties with a compatible density as is right for ‘infill development’. In this case it would be townhouses, duplexes or single family homes.

Ms. Oliver is such an ardent fan of the Florida development model that she did not address any of the concerns about density or mixed use. She did not consider the project in terms of the Comprehensive Plan or Shore Drive Design Guidelines and seemed to have little regard for the unique character of Virginia Beach.

Mr. Redmond and Mr. Graham are both developers and so are very pro-development. Neither addressed the main issues with the project: flawed application of ‘mixed use’ which undergirds the project and makes it possible and noncompliance with the Comprehensive Plan and Shore Drive Guidelines for infill density. In their eyes, any development is the right move and gets a rubber stamp.

Interestingly, Mr. Bradley, as the newest member of the Planning Commission, did look to the Comprehensive Plan and the Bayfront Advisory Commission report to base his vote on. His remarks were based in fact and to the point. As a former budget director, he said that the fiscal impact for the city would in fact be slight. Residential development doesn’t pay for itself because of the attendant costs. He went on to say that stakeholders had a zoning expectation and this project is much denser and a dramatic change from what people who have invested in the area expect. He also emphasized that the Bayside Advisory Commission is a Council appointed committee and they did not support it.

Which brings us to a final question: if the city is not going to honor its own plan and follow its own guidelines which residents rely on- what is the point of regulations and plans at all when they go out the window as soon as a developer steps into the picture? We hope that our interactions with the City Council members will be a two way street.

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; abarnes@vbgov.com and nwmb@opcl.org

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