The following is an article from our local paper that just put me in a tizzy. My opinion is stated at the bottom. Please feel free to post a comment. I am interested in other opinions.
The threat of losing Oceana Naval Air Station nearly three years ago forced the city to rethink how it did business with the military. The city compromised. The Navy gave a little. But now a pair of council members are chafing over the power they seem to have relinquished to protect the Beach's largest employer. This week, the council members said they feel they no longer have full control over the future of residential development around the base. "What's left for us?" Councilwoman Barbara Henley asked. "I wonder where the City Council is in this, or have we abdicated our authority?" City Councilwoman Reba McClanan said she appreciates the more amicable relationship that has developed between Virginia Beach and Oceana officials in recent years but wonders what the cost has been. "How much citizens have given up in the process to keep Oceana and the planes here, I don't think is clear," McClanan said. The federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005 recommended moving the jet base because too many homes were being built too close to Oceana. Since then, the City Council has approved a slew of new policies to keep the base. Virginia Beach and the state are spending more than $30 million to buy properties from willing sellers around Oceana. The City Council tightened its zoning rules, allowing fewer new homes near the base. And Beach and Oceana staffers now meet regularly to discuss and review residential development applications. However, the latest change has caused at least two council members to raise an eyebrow. Earlier this month, the City Council unanimously voted to slice the 65-to-70-decibel noise zone around the base into three sections with different degrees of restrictions. The western part of the band is the most restrictive, and residential rezonings for additional homes are allowed there only if nothing else can be built. Along the southern portion, by General Booth Boulevard, the number of homes allowed in new subdivisions is limited to a density no greater than what already has been permitted on nearby properties. The Oceanfront is the least restrictive section, and development plans there face little objection from the Navy. Two separate cases this week, from South Hampton Roads Habitat for Humanity and The Breeden Co., tested the new policy. The City Council approved both plans after long debates. Habitat's plan called for six townhomes off Interstate 264 in the most restricted area. The Breeden Co. wanted to build 99 apartments and a strip shopping center off General Booth Boulevard. The joint staff committee reviewed both plans and found them acceptable. That's a call the City Council should be making, not the committee, said Henley, who said she thought 99 apartments were too many in an area of primarily single-family homes. The joint committee's report is just a recommendation, said Bill Macali, a deputy city attorney. It's similar to the planning staff's recommendation on land-use issues, he said. "We're not divesting the council of any powers," Macali said. "Council has full, 100 percent authority." A call to an Oceana official this week was not returned. Still, having the Navy on board with a project will make it more difficult for council members to vote against it, Henley said. Councilman Jim Wood said he welcomes the Navy's input. "This is a process that has been ongoing since Virginia Beach was first placed on the BRAC list," Wood said. "To say at the 11th hour that we've turned everything over to the Navy is shortsighted." Torrey Breeden, with The Breeden Co., said the joint review and the new rules in the 65-to-70-decibel noise zone help developers figure out what they can build. "You know where you stand," Breeden said. "It gives the council a little cover because they can say, 'Look, they're following the rules.' "
Deirdre Fernandes, (757) 222-5121, firstname.lastname@example.org
I can not believe that as elected officials some city council members are concerned about making a decision contradictory to the joint staff committee. The city council’s job is to decide what is best for our community. This is much different than the joint staff committee who is making sure the proposal is within the regulations. If our council members are concerned about making decisions then we, as voters, need to remember this at election time. The residents and elected officials of Virginia Beach need to realize that if the Navy leaves Virginia Beach, more than just the jet noise will diminish. Everyone is complaining about the drop in home values as of late. Imagine what will happen when the city’s largest employer has left town. Your home value will plummet, since we would no longer have the thousands of military personnel, families, and support businesses needing housing. So for those of you who feel you may be ‘giving up ‘ things to keep the base here and others who feel they are losing their ‘power’, take a look at your property value and then decide what is best. As elected officials, you make the decisions about our community.