Virginia Beach Votes to Up Taxes to Fend Off Rising Seas

Residents OK $568M bond to pay for infrastructure projects
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 3, 2021 4:16 PM CDT
Virginia Beach Ready to Spend Tax Dollars on Climate Change
A worker retrieves a grappling hook on the dock next to Bubba’s restaurant on the water in Virginia Beach, Va., Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Voters in Virginia Beach approved a $568 million bond issue on Nov. 2, 2021, that will be used for protection against flooding.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Voters in Virginia Beach have approved one of the larger bonds in the US to pay for infrastructure projects to guard against rising seas and intensifying hurricanes, suggesting that more Americans are finally willing to spend tax dollars to adapt to climate change. Tuesday's "yes" vote earned nearly 73% support in the coastal city of about 450,000 people, according to unofficial results from the Virginia Department of Elections. The $568 million bond will fund anything from elevating roads to the closing of a 100-acre city golf course to collect storm water. There are also plans for more water pumping stations to reduce flooding.

Property taxes are expected to rise by $115 to $171 a year for a home of median assessed value, city officials say. But the bond in Virginia Beach will not put an end to the city's flooding woes. The money will cover only a third of what’s needed overall to protect against 1.5 feet of sea-level rise, said John Moss, a city councilman who was a large force behind the referendum. Still, the AP reports the flood-control projects in Virginia Beach could help the city avoid up to $8 billion in losses to flooding as well as associated economic impacts in the coming decades, according to a report from Old Dominion University.

Much of Virginia Beach sits on low coastal plains. Water can drain slowly into tidal rivers and tributaries, sometimes with nowhere to go during heavy rains and high tides. In 2016, 1,400 homes and businesses flooded following weeks of rain that culminated with the remnants of Hurricane Matthew. Homes that are miles from the city’s beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay were inundated for the first time as drainage systems became overwhelmed. Similar weather events preceded bond issues passing in other cities. For instance, the Houston area passed $2.5 billion in bonds to pay for flood-control projects in 2018, a year after Hurricane Harvey.

(More Virginia Beach stories.)

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