Elections: Rose Hall District council candidates on farming, flooding during rural issues forum

Michael Berlucchi and Conrad Schesventer are candidates in the special election for the Rose Hall District seat on the Virginia Beach School Board. This image combines two photographs. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Independent News]

BACK BAY   Virginia Beach City Council candidates Michael Berlucchi and C. Conrad Schesventer II, who are both running for the Rose Hall District seat in the Tuesday, Nov. 5, special election, have differing views on the merits of the policies the city uses to protect farmland and elect City Councilmembers. 

At a Thursday, Oct. 24, forum hosted by the Creeds Ruritan Club and Virginia Beach Farm Bureau, Berlucchi expressed his support for Virginia Beach’s hybrid election system, the agricultural reserve program, and the use of Indian River Road as a boundary for public utilities.

Schesventer discussed why he believes that the current processes that the city uses to encourage farmland preservation and elect City Councilmembers are unfair to Virginia Beach residents. Schesventer told the audience at the Creeds Ruritan Community Complex in Back Bay that he does not consider the Virginia Beach agricultural reserve program, or ARP, to be a wise use of taxpayer money.

“I like the idea of holding back development,” said Schesventer, “but just not using taxpayer dollars.” 

Berlucchi said that the entire city of Virginia Beach has benefited from the investments made in the ARP, which purchases development rights so farmland can remain in production.

“There’s a rich heritage in Virginia Beach of the contributions that agriculture makes to our economy and to the character of Virginia Beach,” Berlucchi said. 

Berlucchi also supports the city policy that prohibits utilities from expanding south of Indian River Road, which could lead to greater growth in rural areas of the city.

“Why would we invest in the ARP to preserve agricultural economy, land and heritage if we were then going to extend water and sewer to encourage further development in that part of the city?” Berlucchi said. 

Schesventer said he believes the city is treating southern Virginia Beach residents and businesses unfairly by not offering them access to public utilities.  

“We should all be part of the city,” said Schesventer. “We should all have the same services. It’s very simple — inclusion for everyone.”

The two candidates also have different opinions on Virginia Beach’s hybrid system of citywide elections for both at-large and district City Council seats. 

“I do not agree with the current system,” Schesventer said. “I agree with representative democracy.” 

“I’m running in Rose Hall,” Schesventer added, implying that the current system makes this difficult.  “I need to make sure I’m representing Rose Hall citizens and bringing the Rose Hall voice to City Hall.” 

Berlucchi supports the current system because he believes it promotes accountability and encourages council members to listen to voters from all across the city.

“I’ve really enjoyed the chance to hear from and learn from voters in all parts of the city,” said Berlucchi, although he acknowledged that the system can be confusing.  “I’m still convincing people that they can vote for me in the Rose Hall District when they live in other parts of the city.” 

The candidates were also asked how the city can better fight flooding and sea level rise. Berlucchi discussed the importance of prioritizing flooding issues and collaborating with state and federal agencies. 

Schesventer spoke of the need for more green spaces, which he said would lessen the amount of runoff and aide in cleaning up pollution in the bay. 

Schesventer II works at an Oceanfront hotel and has been very active in Virginia Beach politics. He frequently speaks at City Council meetings and previously ran for the Centerville District City Council seat.  

Michael Berlucchi works at the Chrysler Museum of Art, and he is the Rose Hall District’s current City Council representative. Formerly a member of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission, to which he remains a liaison, he was appointed to City Council after the resignation of former Councilmember Shannon Kane this year because her family was moving outside the district.

The winner of the Nov. 5 special election will serve on City Council for the remainder of the four year term that Kane was elected to in the fall of 2016. That term will end in December 2020.

A downloadable audio version of the forum is available via princessanneindy.com/podcast. It can be downloaded to iTunes or RSS feed. Additionally, The Independent News 2019 Voter Guide is online. Pungo Publishing Co., LLC, which publishes The Independent News, is an associate member of Virginia Beach Farm Bureau but does not participate in political endorsements or policy recommendations.

© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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