NAPS Urges Virginians to Vote “No” on Ballot Question #1
Dear Virginia voter,
The Nov. 6 Virginia election ballot contains two statewide ballot initiatives. Question #1 asks: “Should a county, city, or town be authorized to provide a partial tax exemption for real property that is subject to recurrent flooding, if flooding resiliency improvements have been made on the property?”
The Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship (NAPSva.org) board of directors is urging Virginians to vote “no” on this question because it could create incentives that are unwise, unfair to citizens, and detrimental to the environment.
Firstly, it is fundamentally unwise for any incentives to be given for building or rebuilding on land with recurrent flooding, especially in a tidal region where relative sea levels are expected to continue rising*, It would be much wiser to expand incentives not to build or rebuild on this land, such as currently provided in Article X, Section 6 (a)(7) of the Constitution of Virginia: “Land subject to a perpetual easement permitting inundation by water as may be exempted (from taxation) in whole or in part by general law.”
Secondly, an ordinance that offers tax relief for the installation of riprap, bulkheads or other types of hardened shorelines would be unfair to owners of neighboring properties, particularly those who cannot afford to install their own flooding resiliency improvements. Not only will their taxes subsidize the neighbor’s improvements, their property will experience increased flooding and erosion from the inflow reflected by the protected neighboring property**.
Thirdly, where municipalities offer tax relief, waterfront developers would gain an additional incentive to purchase and build up low-lying "improved" properties, further exacerbating flooding of neighboring residents and working waterfronts. Due to hydric soils, heroic engineering solutions are required to protect such developments resulting in high maintenance costs and a drastic altering of the character of the landscape, according to Bryan D. Watts, Director, and Mitchell A. Byrd, Director Emeritus, of the Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg. In a letter opposing a proposed waterfront development in Northumberland County, they stated: “If we want to maintain the natural systems that form the basis of the Bay's appeal, we need to move away from siting this type of high impact development within sensitive habitats."
Finally, NAPS is very concerned with ecological damage caused by further hardening of the shoreline and inability for environmentally critical wetlands to absorb the additional inflows, even when done one lot at a time. According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), an estimated 1,700 miles of tidal shoreline in Maryland and Virginia have been hardened (about 18% of the total shoreline), with many miles added each year***. Hardened shorelines cause turbulence that scours sediment and deepens the water so it no longer supports underwater grasses or protects small-bodied fish and shellfish from larger predators. They also offer much less support for communities of water birds, according to VIMS. Marshes are the nurseries of the Chesapeake Bay, and the ecology and economy of Virginia’s tidal region relies on the Bay’s health and recovery.
We acknowledge the Virginia legislature’s good intentions to allow relief to property owners who will continue to suffer damage from increased flooding, and we recognize the effort taken to get this referendum on the ballot. However, we believe this amendment is not a wise, fair, or environmentally sound way to achieve that goal. Let’s all work together to support effective nature-based solutions to this ever-increasing challenge. However, on Nov. 6, please vote “No” on Virginia election ballot question #1.
The Board of Directors of the Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship, Heathsville, Virginia
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***Chesapeake Bay Program - https://www.chesapeakebay.net/news/blog/by_the_numbers_1700
Comments? Please email your comments on this article to stewardship@NAPSva.org.
The VA ballot measure #1 for tax relief on mitigating effects of flooding is interesting. This is the first time I have heard of it. It came to me as a post on ASFPM FB page.