Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Bayside District seat on the Virginia Beach City Council up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The incumbent is noted. The answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting. Our full 17-page voter guide is now on stands.
Louis R. Jones
Residence: Saw Pen Point
Occupation: President-Owner, Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home
Military Service/Education Completed: United States Marine Corps Reserve (6.5 years), Bachelor’s – Business Administration, College of William and Mary – Norfolk (now ODU)
Endorsements: Virginia Beach Education Association, Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters and Virginia Beach Realtors Association
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am an experienced businessperson with a well-honed knowledge of both private as well as public finance. I have a clear understanding of what it takes to make government work on the local level.
I sponsored the funding for the expansion to full day kindergarten. I support job creation and public safety and have protected our environment through preservation of open space and preserving the green line to stop development in the southern part of Virginia Beach. I am proud to represent the city I love and hope you will honor me with your vote in November.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? I have opposed new developments in flood-prone areas. I secured hundreds of millions of dollars to immediately begin improving stormwater management. This includes increasing the capacity of BMPs and lakes and increasing the stormwater capacity in key areas of the city. Also, engineering studies will be completed this year that will advise us by science how to best address these issues citywide, and we will commit funding to completing those improvements. This will be a massive undertaking and we will seek assistance from the state and federal governments.
What are your policy priorities as a potential member of the City Council? A top priority for Virginia Beach is economic development and job creation. We are attracting biomedical research companies and technology businesses while keeping our tourism industry vibrant and revenue-producing. We must expand these opportunities in case federal defense spending is cut in the future and Virginia Beach needs a vibrant future with a wide variety of career options, companies and economic growth for the city.Also, Virginia Beach is the safest city of its size in America and has been for several years. In fact, our low crime rate is similar to the crime rate 50 years ago. Our police department is well-trained and well-equipped and our Police Chief does an excellent job in terms of readiness and preparedness for crime prevention, quick response and investigation. I consistently vote for funding that is needed to keep our city safe and I know that we must be always be alert to preserve public safety and maintain a family environment from our neighborhoods to our resort area.
Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? In 2003, SGAs (Strategic Growths Areas) were first designated and updated in 2009. These areas were designed to allow higher density growth rather than continue sprawl. A master plan guides each one which was developed with the input and participation of those living in that SGA. I believe that was a good strategy and I agree with continuing it.
Virginia Beach has allowed limited development in the transition area between suburban and rural areas of the city, yet some of this development has proved costly to taxpayers. Should the city further limit projects in that area due to flooding and density concerns? I believe Council should consider flooding and density concerns in all development applications.
Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? I would oppose that.
Do you support the agricultural reserve program, or ARP? Should either the program or its dedicated funding level be changed? I fought to restore the ARP when the Manager’s budget proposal eliminated it. I think the ARP has done exactly what it was designed to do, and that is prevent development in the southern part of the city and save taxpayer dollars.
How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? Restoration of treed areas in the Southern portion of the City and where possible in the developed areas of the City would help significantly in the absorption of groundwater and return that moisture to the atmosphere. We need to work with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to develop methods of preventing wind pressure from pushing floodwaters back up from the Currituck Sound and water estuaries in the Southern portion of the City into our developed areas. Also, we need to systematically re-engineer our current drainage pipes and infrastructure (including BMPs) to better control rain flow.
Voters from across the city select members of the city council, including members who represent district seats. Should the city consider another way of selecting members of the council, such as a ward system? The last referendum concerning local electoral process was in the 1990s and voters rejected a ward system. I think citizens should decide the electoral process they want, not City Council. There have been proposals for a district-only system, and there have been proposals for a mix of ward elections and at large ones. We also hear from people who don’t want to lose their voice in the election of a majority of Council members and limiting them to their district election. If a referendum gave clear direction, I would honor it.
There is a sense that some developers in Virginia Beach are favored by government. What will you do to either ensure fairness for all business or fight this perception? The City of Virginia Beach did complete a disparity study which will identify specific strategies to make Virginia Beach’s procurement process more open to small businesses and I support improving those methods and making sure Virginia Beach is open for business for everybody.
The city administration has faced controversy, including an effort to shutter the ARP to pay for storm water projects. Is it time to change city management? I believe the city manager understands his mistakes and Council has directed him to perform his duties in a respectful and professional manner.
Over the past few years, the City Council has not taken decisive action to address short-term rentals, despite clear concern about them within residential communities. What should be done? Should Sandbridge be a special case? If so, why? I have worked with Council the past few months to craft an ordinance that protects both people who want short term rentals in their part of the city and people who don’t want them in theirs. It will take a few more months, but I think we are very close to Council agreeing to a compromise that most people will be happy with.
Brad D. Martin
Residence: Baylake Pines / Bayside District
Occupation: Civil Engineer
Education: College Graduate
Endorsements: Police Benevolent Association, Fraternal Order of Police and former Lt. Governor John Hager
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am a professional civil engineer with 26 years of consulting experience in Tidewater, mostly in Virginia Beach. I understand stormwater and flooding like no other candidate does. My skill set will be a valuable resource in the decision-making procedure as the Council considers spending $300 million in dedicated spending (in addition to the existing $40 million annual revenue from the stormwater fee) on flooding, as well as roads, transportation, and development projects. I served on Council in 2014, so I know what the job requires and I know that our family can balance the responsibilities of being a Councilman.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? As a civil engineer with 26 years of experience in stormwater management projects, my number one priority will be to proactively and aggressively address recurrent flooding and property damage in our neighborhoods. The maintenance of our storm pipes and drainage systems has fallen 12 years behind due to misplaced priorities, and despite $40 million in annual revenues from the stormwater fee paid by citizens and businesses. I have the expertise and experience to help analyze and direct the focused spending to the highest priority projects.
What are your policy priorities as a potential member of the City Council? Aside from stormwater and flooding, my policy priorities on Council will be to fix the pay compression and pay parity issues which have affected our wonderful public safety professionals for decades. These men and women create the safe neighborhoods that we enjoy, and safe neighborhoods are an economic driver in terms of enticing executives, business owners, and employees to buy a home in our City instead of a neighboring City. Virginia Beach has some of the best training programs for public safety professionals in the state, and that training is an investment that should pay off over their entire career. It is folly for us to train up dozens of employees only to see them leave us for another City or another public safety agency a few years later. We need for our seasoned veterans of safety to stay here, and we need our new public safety professionals to envision a future here.
In addition, I’m interested in strengthening and diversifying our economy and growing the employment base (the data cables and the Bio-Medical campus are promising) and keeping our quality public school system at the high standard it has already achieved.
Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? I think there’s a real opportunity for redevelopment along Virginia Beach Boulevard. With redevelopment of our older retail buildings and other developments (some of them 50 years old and older) will come a reduction of impervious cover, increased landscaping, and improved stormwater management solutions. Issues like traffic, utilities, and schools will have to be taken into account, but redevelopment is an attractive alternative to significant new development.
Virginia Beach has allowed limited development in the transition area between suburban and rural areas of the city, yet some of this development has proved costly to taxpayers. Should the city further limit projects in that area due to flooding and density concerns? The transition area has specific development regulations. Limiting the development opportunities further might enjoin a costly battle over property rights and values, and I don’t support that. I support maintaining the limitations of the current Comprehensive Plan.
Flooding concerns on future projects should be addressed by the new (2014) State stormwater regulations, which are much more burdensome, costly, and difficult to achieve than the regulations that were in place when some of the “costly” developments were designed, approved, and built. I believe that the more rigorous regulations will address the potential for flooding damage created by future development projects.
Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? I don’t think City water and sewer services should be extended to the southern portion of the City. The diversity of our City should be maintained, and that means a limited development scenario south of the Green Line. Rural development, south of the Green Line, should be compatible with the well service that is available and the technology of septic systems, and the farmland should remain prevalent.
Do you support the agricultural reserve program, or ARP? Should either the program or its dedicated funding level be changed? I do support the ARP. I don’t think the program funding levels should be changed; the real estate markets and opportunities for development of the farmlands will ebb and flow, and money dedicated for the program should remain there for the specific purchase of development rights. It is troubling when the City budgeting process allows money to be moved from a dedicated funding source to an immediate need like garbage trucks or light rail.
How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? The City needs to take the challenges of Sea Level Rise and recurrent flooding seriously and be a better partner to homeowners in protecting property. Aside from catching up on the 12-year backlog of neglected maintenance of our stormwater systems, these challenges could be turned into opportunities for our City to partner with educational facilities and others to turn the study and the solutions into a national center of excellence and experimentation, and a real economic driver for our region.
Voters from across the city select members of the city council, including members who represent district seats. Should the city consider another way of selecting members of the council, such as a ward system? There are legitimate viewpoints on both sides of this issue. Minority communities feel disenfranchised by the current voting system, and advocates for the current system strongly defend the ability for citizens to vote for every Council Member. The protection afforded to incumbents, by forcing challengers to fund and run a city-wide campaign, is enough of a reason to advocate for a system where some Council seats remain an at-large, city-wide election, and some seats convert to just representing, and being elected by, the voters in that particular district. I favor a change to our voting system.
There is a sense that some developers in Virginia Beach are favored by government. What will you do to either ensure fairness for all business or fight this perception? Some developments include proprietary information and ideas, and should remain confidential. In all other situations, transparency in the process should be a requirement. A level playing field for all interested parties – whether it is a public-private partnership or just the more mundane issues of plan approval and utility inspections – is a welcoming characteristic for companies interested in doing business here. Our Planning Department personnel must remain ever-mindful to treat all their customers with objective equality.
The city administration has faced controversy, including an effort to shutter the ARP to pay for storm water projects. Is it time to change city management? The controversies surrounding Virginia Beach City executives are troubling and still evolving, based on recent revelations about the VBDA leadership and the activities and timelines behind the Green Flash, Cavalier, and Pier deals. Without knowing the direction that the City Manager and his staff are receiving from the majority of City Council, it is premature for me to weigh in on whether our City management should change. I promise a thorough review of our City Manager’s performance and, if necessary, consideration of a change when I am serving on Council.
Over the past few years, the City Council has not taken decisive action to address short-term rentals, despite clear concern about them within residential communities. What should be done? Should Sandbridge be a special case? If so, why? Short-term rentals are a difficult balance of individual property rights versus the reasonable expectations of a neighboring homeowner and the characteristics of a “residential” neighborhood. Sandbridge is (and has been for at least 40 years) a unique situation of weekly vacation rentals in the summer months. Whatever the resolution for the rest of the City, Sandbridge should be excluded from regulations crafted for the rest of the City. I dislike the suggestions about overlay districts or requiring a Conditional Use Permit for every situation. The subjective nature of the districts would cause problems for situations “just in” or “just out”, and I’m afraid the CUP process would essentially become a rubber stamp of approval. I would suggest something akin to a “three strikes” rule, where complaints and law enforcement calls were logged, and a CUP would only be required after multiple transgressions and a documented usage of City services.
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