On Thursday evening, March 25, the City of Virginia Beach held the rollout meeting for the Newtown Strategic Growth Area (SGA) Plan. The meeting was held at the offices of Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which is in the SGA. A SRO crowd turned out for a nearly one hour Presentation. First there were comments by Virginia Beach Planning Director Jack Whitney. He was followed by Paul Ostergard of Urban Design Associates (UDA); UDA was the consultant that had point on the Plan. In turn, that was followed by a question and answer session of about 40 minutes. Afterwards, citizens could ask Staff additional questions.
As for the Plan itself, there would be a gateway park on the triangular block that now features a Rite Aid. The first light rail station in Virginia Beach would be at Arrowhead, with affordable housing adjacent. Northeast of the Newtown Road/Princess Anne Road intersection would be a Town Center-like development. Southeast of the Newtown Road light rail station would be housing (including Seniors housing) and some shopping (including a grocery store). The area around the current Virginian-Pravda production plant would feature offices and light industrial. Finally, the existing hotels would be maintained, with hope upgrades could be induced with the redevelopment in the area.
From the question and answer session:
1. A man had been circulating the light rail referendum petition from Wally Erb's VBTA front group prior to the meeting, claiming it was "simply to allow the citizens to vote". The same man asked the first question, in which he attacked the very idea of mass transit. (Yeah, that laid the lie to it right in front of everyone.)
2. I asked how many new housing units were projected. After a few fumbled with the question, one Staffer claimed about 1,000.
The reason behind it was that the Newtown SGA, being on the western city line, is unencumbered by AICUZ regulations.
3. The hot issue of the night produced one of the ugliest displays I'd ever seen in Virginia Beach public affairs. A developer (Harmony) owns land in the eastern part of the SGA. It's currently zoned light industrial, but they want to build garden apartments on it. The civic league in the periphery opposes it on the grounds that (barf bag, please!) apartments will bring in lower income people than themselves, hurting their neighborhood.
Going back to the question I raised, I hope Harmony does get to build those apartments. Newtown is one of the few SGAs well-suited for housing, and I hate snobs.
There will be multiple opportunities for the public to comment on, and try to get amended, the Newtown SGA Plan. Briefings on the Plan are scheduled for City Council on April 13, then the Planning Commission on April 14. The draft Plan would go to the Planning Commission at their May 12 meeting. If Planning adopts it, it would go to City Council in late May or June.