Light rail, sea level rise among Virginia Beach’s top planning concerns

City of Virginia Beach Official Seal
City of Virginia Beach Official Seal

What do residents think are the two most important planning issues facing Virginia Beach?

Transportation and the environment, according to surveys and open houses conducted by the city as it updates its comprehensive plan.

They’re also two of the three things citizens would like to see improved if they returned to the city in 20 years after leaving today, the plan said. The other is employment opportunities.

One change recommended is a policy that will have city staff account for a projected short-term (0 to 30 years) sea level rise of 1.5 feet and long-term (30-50 years) projected rise of 3 feet when making decisions about public infrastructure design and replacement.

Others will include requiring “green infrastructure” elements of new developments, such as permeable pavements and urban canopies, and increasing tree plantings and preserving existing trees and marshland. Other goals include crafting energy-use goals and promoting recycling.

Beach staff say in the draft update, which is slated for approval in 2016 by the City Council after public input, that there are ways to improve transportation that don’t including building new roads or rail lines. For example, an app that would provide block-by-block live parking data, including heat maps, to drivers.

The big one, though, is light rail.

The plan, which serves as a vision only, calls for building a light rail station at Town Center that will connect to Norfolk’s lines and serve as a feeding station to the Oceanfront, Norfolk International Airport, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story, Princess Anne Commons and the city’s municipal center, and to the City of Chesapeake.

The city should investigate other technologies as well, the plan says, including bus rapid transit and maglev.

Have a story idea or news tip? Contact city hall reporter Judah Taylor or 757-490-2750.

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