Karen Beardslee Kwasny [Courtesy]

VIRGINIA BEACH — In 2002, when my husband and I were looking for a new house, a friend said to me, “You need to live in Pungo, Karen. That place will feel like home to you.”  My family did not locate in Pungo for a variety of kid-school-related reasons, but we moved as close as possible at the time. 

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I gravitate to the rural areas. In what we value and wish to conserve, it’s time our collective thinking and planning did the same.  

Virginia Beach is a busy place. The city is teeming with life – restaurants, bars, grocery stores, gyms, theaters, boutique shops and the like. Almost all of us have every convenience within a three-mile drive. Yet, virtually half of Virginia Beach is found in the rural area.  

As busy as life may get north of Indian River Road, when you head away from the commercial areas and travel toward Pungo, the topography changes and, so, too, does the state of mind. Visitors often comment on the sense of peace provided by the quiet, open spaces and lack of traffic on the roadways. 

Still, it’s not as though business does not occur in the rural area. It does. Small business owners and farmers of many stripes – grain, fruit, vegetable, livestock, to name a few – conduct commerce here. And commerce is good, right?  

Well, that depends on the type, of course, and one’s perspective about the right place for it. 

Lately, there’s some talk about the kind of commerce that can and should be done in the rural area. Should the city permit, say, large tracts of land no longer, if ever, agriculturally used to become event venues? What happens to the land when a farm is no longer being farmed? Should this land go to developers? Of what type? How much? 

These questions are important to a city like Virginia Beach, on the cusp of becoming a leader in alternative energy and environmental sustainability – a pivotal player in the race against sea-level rise.   

The problem is that for many who live in Virginia Beach, the rural area is, well, out of sight, out of mind. Because of this, this important area of the city is often misinterpreted.  

What our rural land provides us is not endless open space, but its value is immeasurable. 

The farming that occurs there is crucial to our local and state economy. The rural area’s grain industry serves our port. The smaller farms that dot the landscape provide residents and locally owned restaurants with fresh produce throughout the year, and some enjoyable agriculturally themed activities. 

The equestrian facilities provide lessons in and a place for a much-loved sport. Unique restaurants in this part of the city offer venue and fare different from anywhere else in town. 

But there are also vast forests and wetlands covering the rural area. These provide us protection from the elements, which always seem like wolves at the door these days.  

Is it possible a more robust and culturally reflective agritourism trade could be created by some ordinance changes that, likely, are long overdue? Yes. Is it necessary to consider the sometimes-disparate views of the various types of agricultural-use landowners who live there? Absolutely.

But preserving the land and conserving our rural area and agricultural heritage for the future truly must be our primary objective. It’s unfortunate to have our rural area in the crosshairs. Yet, in a way, this jewel has always been the center of our attention. All plans for this city work with the preservation of this area in mind.  

The rural area plans propel other areas forward and compliment their goals. This is why it’s high-water time all Virginia Beach residents turn their attention to this area of Virginia Beach – if only to direct high-intensity commercial attention away from it.

The author is a college professor and former member of the Virginia Beach Planning Commission who lives in Ashville Park.

© 2020 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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7 thoughts on “Column: We must preserve farmland and rural communities

  1. There is no sympathy for Wolfe Bros proposed venue below the “Green Line/Back Bay”. Their responses to questions such as we “may” do this or that and the fact they do not seem to present any necessary impact details relative to traffic or noise or any pertinent information that can promote or demote his project. Where are the impact surveys on the overall safety of the public ??? How much will this cost the City/taxpayers to make the necessary allowances for this to be a safe venue?? Sounds like a “I want and you give” proposal. We need to see and act on facts that protect our way of living. So far they have presented a proposal for a starter venue that they will surely attempt to enlarge in the future (as has been the normal for most venues) They purchased property that has a specific purpose. They knew the rules that govern the use of the property and now they want to violate the wishes of the residents that have abided by the rules and regulations dictated by the Green Line . The Wolfe Bros. are by no means innocent people they want sympathy for their project which they knew from the beginning was wrong . They have calculated and planned and seem to be motivated by greed at the expense of those that want peace and quiet of an agrarian society. To allow then to continue would be to violate the needs and desires of the residents of the “Southern city/ County”
    Our roads are slowed by farm equipment (needed), dump trucks (needed to support building above the green line) and bicyclist (a scourge to our narrow high traffic road). We only have one road from K.I. to V.B. , it is narrow, crooked and dangerous. I have read through the Wolfe Bros proposal that uses weak adjectives to describe what he wants the City to believe are his proper proposals…..They ain’t!!
    Were the City To approve the proposed commercial event it would be the absolutely last thing the citizens need. Wolfe Bros are a corporation trying to bully and misrepresent their way into and agricultural and residential world that the City made allowances for long ago. It was right then and it is right now. It is what WE want, what WE like, and what WE need. No I do not live in V.B., I live in K.I. we use the same road, we shop at the same stores, we go to the same churches, we welcome the residential neighbors in V.B. many of which join us on K.I………We do not need the commercial venues. The venues and commercialism to the north have brought reason as to why so many have moved South for peace and quiet. Most of that commercialism started small and they grew and grew…..We do not need to allow one in as many will try to follow. Vote No…..please.
    Terry King

  2. When you ran for office, the majority of your donors were in the Real Estate/Construction industry and for good reason. I find it a little upsetting that you wrote this article knowing the true, real expectations.

  3. I find it UPSETTING that a guy named Tony suggest that the real “estate/construction industry” donated to a government official expecting gratitude for their industry. I would hope you are wrong!!! If there are true and real expectations…..let’s hear them, as written it sounds subversive and against the wishes of the people. I thought the ladies article was very appropriate. The article indicates that one of the Wolfe bros persons live on the premises. This whole thing smells of deceit. Thanks for letting the people of the “county” know how manipulative you folks are…..not my kind of neighbor shame shame shame

  4. Terry, I am not too concerned what you find upsetting or not (nice use of the all caps.) Knowing the facts, you would still most likely be unable to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing, just as a group of us saw when we fought yet another developer that was well-connected with the city – they lost because we persevered.

  5. Tony, all supporters back then fully vetted me. During those many interviews. I made it clear my position of preservation of the rural area (as described in all Comp Plans, including the 2016 version which I assisted in writing as the district’s Planning Commissioner at the time). I also emphasized my role in creating and my promise to adhere to the guidelines for the Transition Area. I stand by those plans and guidelines, as both areas are precious parts of PA District and key to city future plans for flood mitigation, economic sustainability, and marketability.

  6. Tony, I may have misunderstood your intentions as I have little knowledge of you or who you represent. Your statement “true and real expectations” may have thrown me off. I simply want the Green line to be honored and our agricultural/residential neighborhood to be honored and respected. It seems me the Wolfe is the one that has lots of cash and invested with expectations of violating the wishes of the “county” people. He has demonstrated a lack of respect for us rural families. His actions demonstrate his confidence in how to control the city government to get his way. That is the sign of a bully. I do not wish him or his family harm, I just would like him to go away. we do not need bullies ruining our community. One person made a derogatory term by referencing (old fashioned) in one of the previous post. enjoying Old fashion ways and values is why most of us moved here. God bless

    1. Indeed, I have little knowledge of you, or who you represent also…

      I am speaking from experience in regard to a long and hard three year battle with a developer, city staff, and those connected with city staff who have no problem whatsoever misrepresenting themselves. There is an incredible bias towards taxpayers who are protecting their communities.

      I too want protection below the Green Line. I also want the over development to stop citywide. I also want the connection that some in City Council, city staff, the planning commission and other departments have with developers to stop. I am talking both current and former members. And so you know I witnessed it myself. I was also the one who organized “Those Opposed” to fight a developer and am very happy about the experience I gained.

      What I am not happy about is the unethical stance those connected with the city will take. They do it because they can get away with it. You are taking the phrase “real expectations” out of context from what I witnessed and only the two individuals who had that conversation one day, during the heat of that battle, would know about the “real expectations” of what was said.

      One thing you should understand is that the developers need help in doing what they are doing. They are not doing this alone, and they cannot put up these building alone – that is what I learned. That is more in line with what I am conveying and is far removed from your version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe I should have said “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”


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