‘This is doable’: Virginia Beach councilmembers’ proposal could establish flood protection in 3 years

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Virginia Beach city councilman John Moss speaks to a crowd at the Bow Creek Recreation Center.
Virginia Beach city councilman John Moss speaks to a crowd at the Bow Creek Recreation Center. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — It’s no secret that Beach neighborhoods flood easy when it storms, and two city councilmembers are leading the charge to find money for $450 million in unfunded stormwater projects.

Council members Jessica Abbott and John Moss filled residents in on their joint-proposal to finance unfunded stormwater projects in three years at their town hall meeting Thursday night at the Bow Creek Recreation Center.

“We have managed projects of this size of dollar value in the past and have been successful,” Moss said. “It’s just a question of leadership and attitude.”

The councilmembers’ proposal prioritizes stormwater management 222 percent more than the city manager’s current proposal, without a stormwater fee increase and the 15-year wait that could only cover $300 million in unfunded projects.

Moss and Abbott’s proposal could establish flood protection equivalent to a “ten-year flood” in several Beach neighborhoods. The funding would come from two sources — the light rail taxes and revenues made from a 2 percent lapse rate adopted in appropriating labor costs.

The proposal aims to fund the Aragona, Windsor Woods and The Lakes neighborhoods by next year. It could fund flood protection for Princess Anne Plaza, Shore Drive, Hollis Road, Eastern Shore Drive, Ashville Park and Sherwood Lakes by 2019.

Though the proposal aims to tackle flood problems in these neighborhoods, it is not a guarantee against flooding, and the two recommend residents still have flood insurance.

Abbott said when City Manager Dave Hansen took a look at their proposal, he said he didn’t feel it was executable. Moss said that his reaction is an excuse and that mitigating storm water damage is doable.

“Clearly we have all the staff we need to execute a $150 million light rail project … we have the staff to focus on the right stuff to do a different alternative,” Moss said. “I’m not spending any more money, I’m just spending it on something different.”

Moss continued to criticize Hansen’s priorities in his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.

“‘It’s not executable, but I can go build a $50 million city hall and a beach maintenance facility and ViBE District street improvements,'” Moss said. “I just think it’s insulting. I don’t know how you can look people in the face and tell them ‘sorry, we just couldn’t rise to the occasion to execute the work.’ Give me a break.”

Abbott added that Virginia Beach isn’t the only city in Hampton Roads with a flood problem, and that extending the scope of the issue could benefit the region.

“Chesapeake has these problems, we have these problems, Portsmouth has these problems and Norfolk has problems that are worse than these problems,” Abbott said. “I think this is a great time to practice regional cooperation. Let’s start looking at how to keep the cost low by capitalizing on a regional need.”

Many residents from the neighborhoods damaged by flood water last October attended the meeting, including Jesse Wasserberg.

Wasserberger said Gov. Terry McAulliffe came to his street to declare a state of emergency when Hurricane Matthew hit. His family bounced from hotels to friends’ homes until they could move back into their Windsor Woods home in January.

“My reaction is kind of mixed, I’m certainly excited about possibly getting it done quicker, but the fact that they’re only doing a ten-year flood is disheartening,” Wasserberger said. “I’d rather they do a bit more than just the minimum.”

The next public meeting scheduled for next year’s proposed city budget is at Bayside High School on Thursday, April 27 at 6 p.m.

“This is some of the best news we’ve had, but that doesn’t mean it’s all the way done,” Wasserberger said.

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