July 17, 2016
IN A RECENT conversation with our middle son, my husband and I emphasized the value of a life plan. I urged my son, saying, “It’s important to have a plan for your life. Yes, it will need to be adjusted as you move through the years, but the basic intent of the plan will remain. It serves as a guide, a method by which you make decisions, the backdrop against which you work and grow.”
I wanted my son to understand that having a plan would not limit him; it would propel him forward.
This is true, too, for the city of Virginia Beach, a community with the potential for enormous growth. A plan will help the city manage that growth in a way that benefits everyone. That’s the purpose of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a tome of land-use guidance and methods by which larger goals might be achieved.
As Planning Commissioner Dee Oliver said, it’s “a living document,” meant to be constantly used, carefully reviewed and periodically revised to attend to the one constant in any plan — change. For the city’s Comprehensive Plan, change happens daily via market and demographic shifts that alter the landscape and those who want to live in it.
This past year was a review-and-revision year for the city’s Planning Commission, the group tasked with updating the Comprehensive Plan. It was an arduous process, fraught with differing opinions. Even after City Council adopted the updated plan in May, work is still ongoing. This is because the city is in a state of flux, with significant areas in need of more specific plans to address and balance preservation and change.
Those areas include the Princess Anne Commons/Interfacility Traffic Area, where a 155-acre biomedical park is slated to change the landscape and drive the economy; Seatack, where a centuries-old community struggles for presence amid industrial rezonings and arena-related development; the Pembroke Strategic Growth Area, where a thriving Town Center continues to grow; Mid-Beach, where redevelopment is causing concern about appropriate design; and Burton Station, where shifting patterns of development affect carefully laid plans and competing interests threaten progress.
Like the city’s Comprehensive Plan itself, each of these special area plans must be patiently completed, with valuable public input. It is this process that matters most, for the effects of taking the time to include differing opinions — and sometimes disparate views — will be felt for years to come.
Someone once said to me that the city’s Comprehensive Plan is just a book on a dusty shelf that is rarely used. I replied, “Except when it isn’t.”
Can a plan meant to address a city as diverse and unique as Virginia Beach ever be fully realized? When I speak with my sons about their plans for the future, I emphasize that they be true to themselves.
If the plan is of their own making, designed to take them into a future that will be their own, then they must be the champion of it. This principle, too, applies to Virginia Beach and its Comprehensive Plan.
It can only work if each of us, as Virginia Beach residents, gets to know the plan, provides input, assists the city in applying it, and in the end, comes together to champion it.
Karen Beardslee Kwasny