Virginia Beach Sea Level Rise Policy Response Report

City of Virginia Beach
Posted on: 8/13/2021 - Updated on: 10/01/2021

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock



The City of Virginia Beach, Virginia, has recognized that flood impacts are increasing and must not be left unchecked. In addition to sea levels rising at a rate nearly twice that of the global average, Virginia Beach is threatened by changing precipitation patterns and increasingly recurrent tidal, storm surge, and inland flooding events. In order to tackle such challenges, the City must pivot to fully informed planning, infrastructure design, and community engagement. This document provides guidance on the actions the City should undertake to secure a vibrant future for the entire Virginia Beach community.

In 2015, the City initiated the Comprehensive Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding Study (CSLRRF). The genesis of the study was both in recognition of increased flooding and the need for a strategic plan to protect the city. The goal was to produce the needed information and strategies to enable the City to establish long-term resilience to sea level rise and associated recurrent flooding. The following outcomes were identified for the study, with this document being a product supporting the policy strategy aspect of outcomes numbers two and three.

  1. Establish a full understanding of flood risk and anticipated changes over planning and infrastructure time horizons.
  2. Develop risk-informed strategies, including engineered protection and policy, to reduce short and long-term impacts.
  3. Produce policy and structural strategies to reduce short- and long-term impacts.
  4. Engage in public outreach processes to advance resilience initiatives.

This report, The Virginia Beach Sea Level Rise Policy Response Report (the Policy Response Report) contains a diverse range of policy action items, which were developed in an effort to provide future guidelines while fostering resilience in City-wide practices. The policy action items within this document reflect City staff priorities and have largely been molded by the collaborative effort of numerous departments within Virginia Beach’s municipal government. Following the creation of the Report’s action items, City staff undertook an extensive ranking exercise, which culminated in the prioritization of action items as seen in this Report. The document provides the City with an array of recommended actions and steps that the City may choose from to begin making zoning, ordinances, policies and regulations more resilient to wide-ranging flood issues. All policy action items fall under seven specific goals which are highlighted below:

  1. Plan for a future with more frequent and intense flooding
  2. Enhance the flood resilience of critical infrastructure and invest in capital improvements to
  3. reduce community flood risk
  4. Enhance the flood resilience of buildings and neighborhoods
  5. Protect and enhance the local economy
  6. Preserve and enhance natural flood buffers and open space
  7. Improve City coordination and responsiveness to community flood concerns
  8. Advocate for changes in state and federal law and policy to incentivize, support, and fund local resilience implementation

These seven goals closely align with priorities set by the City Council in recent strategic documents. Each goal is supported by strategies, objectives, and prioritized action items for City staff and departments to undertake. The action items have been assigned priority rankings through a participatory process with City staff and range from Low, Medium-Low, Medium, Medium-High, to High.

It is the City’s expectation that laying out a broad and diverse menu of action items will help City departments implement changes in zoning, ordinances, codes, and regulations that, when paired with cost-beneficial engineered solutions, will increase the overall resilience of all Virginia Beach communities.