Virginia Beach slashing budget used to protect Oceana

Posted at 7:10 PM, Aug 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-04 19:10:27-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - A decade ago, Virginia Beach got a scare, because so many houses crowd Oceana.

It costs a ton of money to save the base. Now the city says the threat of losing the base is over so the city is slashing the budget it used to protect Oceana.

Ten years ago, jets landing at Oceana flew over so many houses bordering the airbase that government leaders almost closed the runways.

To save the base, the city and state started buying houses, businesses, and lots, to thin development around Oceana. The tab was more than $140 million eliminate about 400 properties.

"It was a heck of a lot of money. But the economic engine of Oceana is huge for our city, our region, and the Commonwealth of Virginia for that matter," says Robert Matthias, the assistant city manager.

But now the property buying budget is shrinking from 15 million a year to 1 million.

"We have basically bought all the properties that were available," says Matthias.

All of these purchases were from willing property owners at market value. But now, city leaders say no one else wants to sell.

The mayor says that's OK because it frankly would've been hard for the city to find another $7.5 million -- that's the city share -- to keep buying property. He says the city has done all it can to keep Oceana safe from the next base realignment and closure commission.

"There's another BRAC ahead of us. The question is when. Certainly we are going to have some ammunition to present that what we have been doing, to make sure Oceana flourishes," says Mayor Will Sessoms.

The city will set aside $1 million a year to buy property if it becomes available. The next government meeting to decide whether we have the right number of military bases has not been scheduled. But the mayor says when it does come about, he is certain Oceana will stay safe.