Letter: Farmland preservation program should go away and Virginia Beach put tax dollars into flooding neighborhoods

Dear Editor:

My opponent in the Princess Anne District, City Councilmember Barbara Henley, helped create and voted for the agriculture reserve program, or ARP, in 1995. Many years later in 2013, as a sitting member of the Virginia Beach City Council, she and her family’s farm participated in the ARP’s benefits with very little worry about how that appeared. She will always support the ARP, even as others question its relevance in 2018. Remember, in 1995, most of us didn’t own a cell phone, we weren’t on the internet, and city officials were attempting to remake Virginia Beach into a golf mecca. Times have changed.

The ARP should probably go away for several reasons.

First, it’s a subsidy. Nearly one cent – 0.9 cents – of the real estate tax rate you pay is funneled into the ARP. That does not sound like much, does it? But the City Assessor’s report shows that agriculture comprises less than a third of a percent of all assessed values. This year, for example, agricultural properties will kick in about $1.76 million in taxes, but the ARP will be funded with nearly three times as much – $4.88 million.

Is it fair to ask homeowners in Windsor Woods, Princess Anne Plaza and Ashville Park who suffered flooding damage from Hurricane Matthew to subsidize the ARP, even as they have been told by city officials it will take 15 years to resolve their drainage problems?

Secondly, City Council has shown us the ARP is not sacred. The council has used the ARP as a slush fund to jumpstart other funds. For example, in May 2001, $5 million was transferred from the ARP to create another subsidy, the open space fund. For one example of how open space money has been used, nearly $2.4 million of these funds were used to preserve the green lawn in front of the Cavalier Hotel.

Also, in March 2006, $3.7 million in ARP funds were taken and transferred to the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, fund, with the stipulation that the money be used to purchase land in the Interfacility Traffic Area.

The point here is that, whenever the City Council has needed money in the past, they have taken it from the ARP. If the ARP doesn’t really need the money that badly, then perhaps it is time to reprioritize and appropriate those funds elsewhere.

It’s difficult to follow all these special funds, programs and overlays pertaining to certain areas in our city – the ARP, the BRAC fund, the Transition Area and the Interfacility Traffic Area, or ITA.  There are so many overlapping programs, funds and overlays that it breeds confusion, not transparency.

For example, ARP and BRAC funds have been used to purchase land in the Interfacility Traffic Area, but this area is targeted for new development through the ITA Master Plan.

I have no problem with expenditures from one fund simultaneously accomplishing the goals of another program, but the city’s cluster of entanglements in land purchases and development rights in this area is mind boggling. How can land purchased to reduce density or development also be targeted for development at the same time?

The ARP has been in place for 23 years. Is it not prudent, every year, to evaluate all spending priorities and adjust revenue streams accordingly? The BRAC program was funded with $15 million in both state and local funds every year for many years and was used to reduce development density in areas surrounding Naval Air Station Oceana. Having largely accomplished that purpose, BRAC funding has been reduced and is now less than $1 million annually.

How about we perform the same analysis for the ARP, particularly in light of increasing demands on our seriously underperforming citywide storm water drainage system?

The ARP should at least be reduced by two-thirds to no more than the amount of real estate taxes paid by agricultural properties that could benefit from it. The ARP benefits so few, we should reallocate those funds to some serious drainage projects which will benefit many thousands of Virginia Beach citizens.

Tim Worst, Lago Mar

The author is a candidate for the Princess Anne District seat on the City Council.

© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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4 thoughts on “Letter: Farmland preservation program should go away and Virginia Beach put tax dollars into flooding neighborhoods

  1. Is it fair to say that Nashville park flooded long before the housing development? Is it fair to say that I should have to pay for Nashville parks issues when they do nothing to help me or the community? Is it fair to say that the flooding has started in just recent years with all the development going on? Everyone knows concrete and asphalt doesn’t absorb water.

  2. Alright, so.. here goes..sort of. Once again, I am not a political animal and don’t know all of the ins and outsof all of the politcal ‘stuff’ that happens. I am a fiscal conservative. I like my guns. I don’t think that millions of Americans should be aborted. I prefer all political officials serve one term…etc..However,I DO know that ‘Pungo” is worth saving – exactly like it is. There are developers and city officials that see profits and tax revenue – and there is a a lot of potential money. A lot of money to be made. Divide it all up and tax it. Oh, he!! yeah!!! On the other hand…. on the other hand. There are some things worth saving. Just because. Coral reefs. Rain forests. Tundra. Princess Anne County. About half of Virginia Beach is rural. There are families here that can trace their history back 300+ years. Southern Virginia Beach was once a region of ‘starvation plantations’ – a region of lowlands and swamps that scarcely provided a living for the people who lived, hunted, fished, and farmed the area. Most of the farmers of PA County are in favor of the ARP. I don’t think this is because they think they will get rich off of it. Rather, they would make more money by selling the rights to develop their land. Yes, they are saving their way of life. But they are smarter than that. They are saving Back Bay and the Currituck Sound – and they know that. They know that. The folks in the northern part of the city probably do not. I can’t even imagine the damage that will be done if PA county is developed. AshleyPark – what a joke – should never have happened. Now we are ‘stuck’ with that problem forever. Geez…I hate to say it – I do not feel sorry for those people who spent 300k+ for homes that won’t drain. I mean, damn…. what a sorry idea to start with. So, I am in favor of the Southern Watershed. I have started a new business – Moore To See Photo Expeditions – to take guests to see what only fishermen, watermen, and hunters see. Ecotourism is projected to be 25% of all tourism by 2020. I am out front. What other major politacl region has to offer what we have to offer at this point? Pungo is worth saving. Cash in on that. The rural character of VB is something -I would say – no other major metropolitan area has to offer…if for no other reason – that is worth it…

  3. Arp was never needed. Zoning would do the same thing. Lack of city water and sewage will prohibit development. landowners in pongo are getting rich and other areas need help to stop flooding. If landowners care about preservation of open spaces, they will not sell to developers. It is always about the money

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