BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
COURTHOUSE – Farmer Steve Barnes in January will replace Dr. Karen Beardslee Kwasny as the Princess Anne District representative to the Virginia Beach Planning Commission.
The City Council voted to accept the nomination of Barnes on Tuesday, Dec. 4, during a meeting at City Hall. Kwasny’s four year appointment to the commission concludes at the end of this year, but politics factored into the change after her political challenge of City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the district, during the recent council election.
Kwasny, an educator from Ashville Park, placed third in the Princess Anne District council race. She was behind Henley, a Pungo farmer who won reelection, and challenger Tim Worst of Lago Mar. A fourth challenger, the Rev. Pieri Burton of Strawbridge, officially dropped out of the race but his name still appeared on ballots because they already had been printed.
Barnes runs BayBreeze Farms, which has a market along Sandbridge Road, with his wife, Cindy Barnes. Reached by phone on Thursday, Dec. 6, Steve Barnes said, “I’m honored, and I’ll try to do the best I can.”
The appointment of Barnes means there will be two farmers on the commission in January. Blackwater’s Don Horsley of Land of Promise Farms serves as an at-large representative.
In an interview on Wednesday, Dec. 5, Henley said Barnes will represent the diverse, large district well because he has knowledge about not only agriculture but the communities below and above the Green Line and of waters in and around Back Bay.
“He knows the people and he knows the area,” Henley said, before noting the upcoming results of studies on flooding and sea level rise that will likely influence future decisions. “This district is certainly going to be hit the hardest with sea level rise projections, and I think we may need to look at our land uses.”
Regarding Kwasny, the change for the district’s representative to the Planning Commission should not have been unexpected.
“I think there were obviously some differences that developed in how we looked at things, and I think it’s important that we are able to work well together,” Henley said during a telephone interview.
Kwasny, also speaking on Wednesday, Dec. 5, said she knew a change was coming given the election, and that she was disappointed that she would no longer serve on the commission. However, she said she was proud of her work with that body, including revisions to parts of the city comprehensive land use plan related to Pungo and rural communities, which involved community input.
“I’m very proud of how I reached out to communities in the district affected by development to ensure their voices were heard,” Kwasny said, noting that she tried to determine whether applications were suitable uses of land not just from a technical standpoint but from a community perspective, as well.
There is a a regret, she added, in that “I won’t get to do the work I wanted to do and was really passionate about.”
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