Virginia Beach’s transition area intended to be a buffer between suburban and rural development

City Planner Robert Davis looks through a binder of reports involving development in the transition area in 2015. [John-Henry Doucette

COURTHOUSE — The transition area is a section of the city below the “green line” between urban and suburban development and the southern rural areas of the city, according to the city’s comprehensive plan.

It is, in a way, a buffer. It is neither meant to mirror development patterns of the north nor low-density rural land uses. The present transition area is part of the southern watershed area, which means development is supposed to consider drainage challenges. 

The idea for transition areas, essentially, dates back to the 1991 city comprehensive plan, with efforts to guide development below the city’s “green line.” There have been updates and revisions to the area and its guidelines for implementation over the years, most recently in 2015.

The drainage issue has become a greater area of concern for city officials in the wake of flooding in two developments along Princess Anne Road within the transition area, Ashville Park and Sherwood Lakes. Both neighborhoods are near a proposed development, which could be on either side of Princess Anne Road near Indian River Road.

City Councilmember Barbara Henley, a farmer who represents the Princess Anne District, said on Wednesday, July 5, that the city faces challenges in dealing with development it already has allowed in the area. She also noted that the “green line” often is misunderstood as a cutoff for development.

“The green line is not a no-growth line,” she said. “It is an urban services boundary.” 

Developments below the line yet in the transition area itself can pay to extend city services. The cutoff for extended services is Indian River Road, city Planning Administrator Carolyn Smith said.

“It’s about four square miles of noticeable transition from suburban to rural,” said Dr. Karen Beardslee Kwasny, who represents the Princess Anne District on the planning commission, in describing the area. “It’s meant to work that way.”

For the past several years, the Transition Area/Interfacility Traffic Area Citizens Advisory Committee has helped weigh in on issues within the transition area. Linwood Branch, a former member of the city council, serves as chairperson.

He said the committee has helped make recommendations about activity in the area. He has urged that the planning commission and city council be briefed on the area, requirements for land use and a wider look at uses for remaining land.

“Our concern is that, over time, this is looked at as just another piece of land in Virginia Beach,” Branch said.

[City of Virginia Beach]

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