Virginia Beach Restricts Real Estate Development in Bold Sea Level Rise Plan

The city council in Virginia Beach, Virginia, voted this week in favor of a bold new plan to combat sea level rise and intense storm flooding. The city, which is in an area that already experiences climate change-driven flooding, requires developers to take more stringent steps to plan for flooding from sea level rise and strong storms.

Under the new plan, the city is calling on developers to design projects that handle 20 percent more rainfall than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts for the region. As the earth’s atmosphere continues to warm, climate experts predict more storms with downpours capable of flooding. The city is also requiring developers to replace the methods they’re now using to predict where stormwater runoff will go with more accurate Environmental Protection Agency software.

The city’s plan also includes provisions that require new construction projects to accommodate flooding due to sea level rise predicted between now and 2085. Hospitals and other critical infrastructure will have to be built to handle 3 feet of sea level rise. Non-critical structures will have to cope with 1.5 feet of higher seas.

Acting City Manager Tom Leahy told The Virginia-Pilot that replacing old regulations with the new plan now will save the city money tomorrow. “The more we develop under the old standards, the more we’re going to have to fix down the road,” he said.

Virginia Beach’s investment in these regulations and other steps to combat flooding from sea level rise, storm surges and rainstorms is expected to save millions of dollars each year. The city says some federal funding will be needed to cover the cost of the new projects.

Virginia Beach’s pro-active approach to climate change related flooding is commendable. Many major coastal cities are allowing expensive development with little thought to the impending threat and the cost to future generations.

This brings up an important point for real estate buyers: Just because a coastal community allows development doesn’t meant it is immune to flooding. Always perform due diligence to find out if a property of interest experiences flooding or is likely to experience flooding during the period you intend to own it. Also consider the fact that flooding can result in higher carrying costs for maintenance, taxes and insurance and it may cause the property value to decline.

Norfolk Neighborhood Breaks Ground on Sea Level Rise Diversion Project

When confronted by sea level rise flooding, neighborhoods have a choice: Try to hold the waters back, move out of the area, or divert the water into areas designed to accommodate floodwaters.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander and community leaders recently broke ground on a project that takes the last approach to cope with sea level rise flooding. Resilience Park, part of the Ohio Creek Watershed Project, will create a green space to store and absorb floodwater. The project also includes a coastal flood berm, restored tidal creek wetland, and sports and recreational facilities.

A major plus to residents is that that project also includes a walking path that will connect two predominantly African American neighborhoods. “The Ohio Creek Watershed Project is an example of the kind of work we need to do to protect lives, property, and economic opportunity in Hampton roads, and the innovation that will help us build a safer, more sustainable, and resilient Virginia for future generations,” Gov. Northam said.

Virginia is using $112 million of a $120 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to fund the project.

Norfolk, VA, Group Hosts Contests to Develop Sea Level Rise Mitigation Programs

As cities and towns along the U.S. coastline scramble to address sea level rise flooding, a non-profit, economic development group in Norfolk, VA, is hosting contests to encourage the private sector to develop ideas.

Norfolk is experiencing some of the fastest sea level rise in the country, and it’s desperate for solutions. The city is using a share of a $120 million grant the State of Virginia received from the federal government to improve its resiliency to flooding.

Among the programs the city supports is an economic incubator called RISE, which is giving seed money to six small businesses that won a contest by submitting innovative proposals to address sea level rise and climate change. The ideas include teaching local business contractors how to elevate houses and establishing oyster reefs to protect the shoreline from storm surge.

This year’s RISE Coastal Community Resilience Challenge includes an invitation for company’s to submit proposals to develop an app that will give drivers real-time flooding information. The group is also looking for proposals to deal with stormwater in parking lots, detect sudden intense rainstorms, and beach sand replenishment.

For more information visit

Virginia Beach Needs Billions of Dollars to Fight Sea Level Rise Flooding

An engineering firm that spent five years studying Virginia Beach’s flooding problem recently presented a report to the city council that says the city will have to spend up to $3.8 billion to manage sea level rise flooding.

To draft its recommendations, Dewberry estimated that seas will rise about 1 1/2 feet between 2035 and 2055 and 3 feet between 2065 and 2085. Sections of the city already experience coastal flooding. More areas will be inundated as the seas rise.

Among the firm’s recommendations are the construction of high-tech flood gates along with more seawalls and levees. The engineers also said the city should consider buying out about 2,500 homes that are at risk of flooding and restricting development in vulnerable areas.

The city council and planning commission are going to consider all aspects of the report before approving its conclusions. Officials say they also need to consider funding sources. They say residents can’t afford to pay all of the billions of dollars needed to protect the city. They’ll have to seek federal assistance.

Communities all along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines grappling with sea level rise flooding and the need to protect valuable real estate and other assets are struggling with how to pay for hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars worth of needed construction projects. Buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents need to consider the plans when they’re deciding how to respond to the challenge.

Does Your State Require Real Estate Sellers to Disclose Sea Level Rise Flooding?

Each state has different requirements regarding a seller’s obligation to disclose sea level rise flooding issues to buyers in a real estate transaction. Not being aware of a state’s seller’s disclosure law can put buyers, sellers and even real estate agents at great risk.

Some states, like Louisiana, are very stringent. Sellers have to tell a buyer if a property floods, the source of the flooding, the type of damage the flooding causes, and whether any flood insurance claims have been filed. The last point is important because there have been cases where buyers have purchased a property and not been aware of a flooding issue. When the property floods and they file a claim, the past claims can be used against them and their insurance rates can skyrocket.

Other states, like Virginia, are pretty much the wild west when it comes to seller’s disclosures. Basically, sellers don’t have to disclose anything, and it’s up to buyers to find out what’s going on.

Florida lies somewhere in the middle. The state requires sellers to disclose defects that they’re aware of that materially affect the value of a property. This could be construed as meaning they’re required to inform buyers if a property experiences flooding. But in all actuality, the language is so non-specific that the state’s insurers are expected to lobby for legislation this year that’s more in line with Louisiana’s detailed level of disclosure.

Strong seller’s disclosure laws protect buyers, sellers, and real estate agents. Buyers, of course, are protected because they’re informed about sea level rise flooding issue BEFORE they make a purchase. Sellers are protected because they will know exactly what’s they’re required to tell the buyer. This can help them to avoid lawsuits for failure to disclose flooding. And real estate agents are protected because they, too, will know what’s expected of them, and they’ll be able to provide better advice to their clients.

A note of caution: Even in states that have strong seller’s disclosure laws, buyers should find out from more than one source if a property or neighborhood floods. Buyers should ask the seller to order a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange report from their insurer. The report will tell the buyer if any claims have been filed with most insurers in the last 5-7 years. Strolling the neighborhood and asking residents if the property or neighborhood floods can also yield valuable information.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has an excellent online map that features information about each state’s seller’s disclosure law. There’s also more information about this important issue in “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions.”

Sea Level Rise Flooding Victims in Norfolk, Virginia, Develop a King Tide App

Tired of sitting idle while sea level rise flooding inundated their neighborhood, an enterprising group of citizens in Norfolk, Virginia, decided to band together and develop a King Tide app. Dave Mayfield, a former environmental reporter, told CBS he was depressed from all the bad climate change news so he came up with the idea for the “Catch the King” app. Now hundreds of residents are measuring the timing and extent of king tide and sea level rise-driven flooding that emerges out of Callie Bay. Their data will help mappers to improve the accuracy of their tide and flooding forecasts.

The CBS report by Brooke Silva-Braga includes a quote from a new resident who didn’t know about the regular flooding of his yard until after he bought the property. He said it cost him $90,000 to raise his property. That, my friends, is why I wrote “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions.” The book tells folks buying in coastal areas — as well as sellers, owners, and real estate agents — what they need to know about sea level rise flooding BEFORE they decide how to proceed in a real estate transaction. Virginia, incidentally, is one of the states with the laxest seller disclosure requirement laws, which is also discussed at length in the book.

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