Are The Boxes Really Checked?

Several members of the Planning Commission justified their vote to recommend approval for the Marlin Bay project by saying that they felt that the project “checked all the boxes”. We hope the City Council will take a closer and more careful look at the project and see that in fact it does not check the boxes it claims to .

They say: “The Comprehensive Plan/Shore Drive Design Guidelines are met.” The developer has consistently been selective in citing from the Comprehensive Plan. They say that the project complies with the Comprehensive Plan and Shore Drive Design Guidelines since it is “mindful of land use compatibility” because it has less retail than is currently on the site. What gets left out of their talking points: “Infill development on small vacant parcels within an existing neighborhood or on parcels being redeveloped should be compatible to the existing development around it.” The existing development is townhouses and single family homes. 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 acres but 4.88 acres.

Does this check the box for being consistent with the Comprehensive Plan?

They say: “This residential use with the active boat sales is compatible mixed use. In fact rezoning and conditional use of the B-2 Boat Sales lot to B-4 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.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. Further: 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. Ocean Park is not a Strategic Growth Area. This rezoning is not appropriate for a Suburban Focus Area like Ocean Park.

Does this check the box for meeting the guidelines for “mixed use” district zoning?

In her presentation to the Planning Commission, Ms. Murphy describes the project as “reflecting the unique character” as a gateway to the city. This project is not unique in any way. It is a standard large apartment complex that you can see by the mile in Northern Virginia. What will be lost by the approval of this project is the unique character of an historic Virginia Beach neighborhood. In addition the Bayfront Advisory Commission cited the “height, scale and massing of the project” as the reason that they voted 6-2-1 not to recommend approval for the second time. Preservation of the unique character of Ocean Park has value to the City of Virginia Beach.

Does this check the box for compliance with Shore Drive Design Guidelines?

Virginia Beach is growing and needs more affordable housing. This project is described by the developer as “high end residential development” and “luxury apartments”.

Does this check the box for adding to the city’s affordable housing?

“Nothing will satisfy the neighborhoods. They are against development”. This is incorrect. 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.

Does this check the box for representing the view of the community honestly and fairly?

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.

Marlin Bay Project: Incompatible Density

These two graphics created by Danny Murphy clearly demonstrate that the density of the Marlin Bay Apartment project is incompatible with the surrounding area as called for in the Comprehensive Plan for Shore Dr.

The Marlin Bay project is a stark departure from the projects previously approved in Ocean Park.

Dear Ocean Park Residents,

First and foremost, I would like to thank the residents of Ocean Park for their passion and their willingness to stand up for our community. Your commitment has been an inspiration. As we engage with the decision makers, please keep in mind that we wish to do so in the spirit of civility and cooperation. We truly believe that all are seeking to work towards the betterment of our city. We seek to convince them that this project is to the detriment of our neighborhood. But we need to make our arguments with facts and persuasion and not engage in any personal or negative attacks. We are in the right that we should have a say in our neighborhood character and that this project will negatively impact that unique character. We must convince them of that not shout them down.

We, as a community, are not in opposition to redevelopment of the lots. We want to see redevelopment that fits with Ocean Park, with the unique quality that drew us all here. So please use facts in your arguments and relate them to your personal experience to explain why you oppose the project.


Danny Murphy, President Ocean Park Civic League

OPCL response to the Staff Planning Document:

Mr. Hoa Dao

Planning Manager

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.

  1. 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. 
    1. 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?
    2. What is the density of the adjacent and nearby properties? What is the average density for these properties?
    3. 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?
  1. 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
  2. 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.
    1. 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. 
    2. 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. 
    3. 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
  3. 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
  4. As stated in the report in reference to the Comprehensive Plan and Shore Drive Corridor Design Guidelines several critical facts have been omitted:
    1. 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.”
    2. 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 

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.

Very respectfully,

Danny Murphy, President

Ocean Park Civic League

Signs UP!

Thank you to all the residents who have put up a sign in their yards, in their windows, even on the dunes! A special thank you to everyone who has donated toward the cost of the signs! We have 100 signs out there now and want to order more! If you would like to donate, it is much appreciated! Donate-to-signs.

It has also been great to hear from the community as people write in to ask for a sign ( Here are some of the messages:

OPCL-Would love to display a yard sign to show our disapproval of this proposal!

Thank you for these efforts for our community and for the signs!!
I would be happy to place a sign in my yard.

My husband and I would love to have a “No Way Marlin Bay” sign for our yard. And I will send a corresponding donation through the link you provided. I will also be emailing the planning commission to advocate against the development. Thank you for your work organizing and supporting our neighborhood!

Hello! We would LOVE to show our support with a yard sign! We will share this in the mailboxes area in front of our house.

A couple of my neighbors have posted signs in their yard and directed me to the website to get one of my own. Thank you for offering these to the community!

The overdevelopment of Shore Drive has to stop. It’s putting all of our safety at risk. And we haven’t even seen the impact of the Westminster Canterbury development on our roads yet. Development is ok but the density on Shore Drive is out of control. Thanks to the OPCL for all their work on this.

I would like a yard sign and will donate for one! This is the absolute worst thing that could happen to our community and I strongly oppose it.

Hello, one of my neighbors passed on your info for a no way Marlin Bay sign . We strongly oppose the building of these apartments and would like to continue showing our support for the cause.

I loved the video and what a great way to get the word out!

We would like to have a sign at our house please!  Our family is strongly against dense development at Marlin Bay. 

News Channel 3 Highlights Community Opposition to the Marlin Bay Development

In an interview with Chelsea Donovan on Channel 3 News, OPCL President Danny Murphy explained the Ocean Park community’s opposition to the proposed 197 unit apartment complex in Ocean Park. He emphasized that the community is not against all development. Residents are looking for appropriate development within the framework of the existing zoning with units similar to what is adjacent to the property: townhouses, duplexes, single family homes. He said that a project of this size and density would destroy the cohesion of this close knit community. He pointed out that residents are opposed to the high density and large scale of this project with 197 units of 1,2 and 3 bedrooms and a 4 1/2 story parking garage. Also of concern is that it poses a threat to the “prime jewel of the city: Pleasure House Point.”

If you would like to display a NOWAYMARLINBAY sign

Scholarship Winner for 2021

Congratulations to this year’s winner of the George and Louise Lyon Memorial Scholarship : Taylor McOrmond! She was selected from a very competitive field of exceedingly well qualified applicants. Taylor is a resident of Ocean Park and attends the Legal Studies Academy at First Colonial High School. She will be attending James Madison University in the fall. We were so pleased to see Taylor at the June 10th meeting where she thanked the membership for the scholarship.

George and Louise Lyon were lifelong members of the Ocean Park Civic League and dedicated a good portion of their free time to serving the community in which they lived. They were especially committed to supporting the Ocean Park Volunteer Rescue Squad which was the first all volunteer rescue squad established in Virginia Beach and that is still in operation today on Shore Drive. This scholarship recognizes student achievement and encourages community volunteerism.

While we may disagree with the rezoning and conditional use request to build the Marlin Bay Development, the developers and owners are our neighbors and we do not condone the defacement of the signage on the Marlin Bay property. The responsible way to oppose this project is by communicating with the city, the Planning Commission and the City Council. This can be done with calls, letters/emails and showing up to speak at public meetings.

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