Editorial: Virginia Beach should not move City Hall to Town Center


“We have an opportunity to make a major consideration,” City Manager Dave Hansen said Tuesday, June 6, while briefing the City Council about an Armada Hoffler proposal to move City Hall to Town Center. The City Council should pass, not because private investment is unwelcome but because any decision about the home of a government should be driven by the overall needs of the people before even the most tempting trade.

There is clear skepticism among some on the City Council, but citizens should engage representatives now. The position of The Independent News is that the city should not move City Hall to Town Center but reinvest in its municipal center, the proper seat of government. 

Moving City Hall will distance core functions from the established heart of Virginia Beach government. Due to persistent traffic issues at Town Center, it may inconvenience city workers and citizens rather than enable convenience and participation. It also will distance rural residents from those who serve not only tourism and economic development interests but our agricultural industry.

Most obviously, a move will shift some public services and meetings from the historic Courthouse area to the newer urban environment of Town Center. There has been generalization-filled discussion that few citizens attend meetings and favor technology, but this is illogical because recent budget and flooding concerns clearly show people get to City Hall to speak their truths to power. 

City Hall is central to government operations, both a symbolic and functioning house of public business. City government should not move away from school administrative offices. It should not leave the courts, administrative offices and constitutional officers. 

There is reason to explore technology as a way to link government and citizens, but Virginia Beach residents are still people who should be able to meet face-to-face. A City Hall rebuilt at the municipal center, where public business is conducted in person, is sensible and appropriate. Voters may not like the expense of this, but they understand public spending on an obvious government function.

The argument that a move to Town Center brings City Hall closer to most of its population is a selective way of selling this idea. The notion should amuse any local who has ever actually driven near the place. Moving City Hall will benefit businesses at Town Center and guarantee a certain stream of pocketbooks closer to one of many marketplaces in Virginia Beach. This is not putting citizens first.

The effort to extend The Tide to Town Center was seen by many people, in part, as a handout to business interests more than a clear public transportation need. That should signal to elected officials that a number of locals will — and rightly should — resist this, too. 

This newspaper represents the southern part of the city, including rural communities. A City Hall at Town Center will distance rural residents. Moving City Hall has no upside for Creeds. 

“I’m happy with where it is, but I’ll listen to what everybody has to say,” City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District, said Tuesday during an interview.

Fair enough. Henley and others should hear options, and they should hear us, too. Citizens from the southern reaches of the city should attend meetings and speak up. One may be at Town Center. Just give yourself time to get there.

© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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