VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The City of Virginia Beach met late Tuesday afternoon to discuss the implementation of a citywide flood protection program that is costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.
Back in November, an overwhelming majority of voters supported the $567.5 million bond referendum, causing a tax hike of about $10 to $14 per Virginia Beach household.
The flooding protecting program includes 21 projects in 6 flooding-prone areas of the city like Bow Creek, Princess Anne Plaza Golf Course and Easter Shore Drive, along with others.
Phase 1 of the program includes accelerating flood protection projects currently underway, as well as several new projects.
The funds will pay for important infrastructure including flood barriers and pump stations and will take about 10 years to complete. Without this referendum, the City of Virginia Beach says the projects would have taken about 40 years to complete, destroying homes and property in the meantime.
“It’s destruction of property. It sometimes represents separation of families, impacts on work and family life," Councilmember Michael Berlucchi said during the meeting. "It’s just tremendously devastating to our community, and I think that the human impact is what led to an overwhelming amount of support of voters for the bond referendum.”
“Virginia Beach residents understand the importance of taking more aggressive measures now to protect our communities from the effects of recurrent flooding,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Robert M. "Bobby" Dyer. “Without the funding from this referendum, the completion of these projects would have taken 40 years to complete. This affirmative vote from citizens will allow the city to move forward on what is one of the most critical needs for our city.”
Virginia Beach is also expecting sea levels to rise up to 3 feet in the next 50 years.
Mayor Dyer and Public Works Director LJ Hanson says they are glad the public has trusted them with their tax dollars.
"This is going to be a good short term," said Mayor Dyer. "You know, a start obviously... when we talk about the problems here, we're going to have to deal with these problems probably in perpetuity. But this is going to be just, once again, a great way to get started to get things moving in a very positive direction and get ahead of the curve."
Leisha Pica, Program Manager for Jacobs Engineering, who gave the presentation at Tuesday's meeting, showed an overview of the different stages of work. Some areas already under construction are Windsor Woods, Lake Bradford and Eastern Shore Drive.
Pica added they are outlining ways to keep the public informed on how their tax dollars will be spent for flood mitigation.