The Politics Of Palm Trees
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More shenanigans in Virginia Beach. Once again, they involve the city’s pet developer and the city manager.
But first, a bit of history.
The wide swaths of sand you see in Virginia Beach are not natural. By the 1990s erosion had reduced parts of the resort area and North End to narrow ribbons of beach at high tide.
Then came Operation Big Beach, begun in 1996 and finished in 2002. It was the largest public works project in the history of the city - $145 million - jointly funded by the feds and locals. Mostly by the feds.
This resulted in what city officials billed as “300 feet of fun!” - that is, extra wide beaches - and a new and improved boardwalk.
But Washington didn't care about fun. The feds were involved because the wider beaches and bigger seawall were designed to prevent flooding.
Why am I giving a geeky lesson in beach erosion today? Because, as part of his Cavalier Hotel development and its swanky private beach club on the ocean at 42nd Street, the city’s favorite developer, Bruce Thompson, has planted 15 palm trees. You know, non-native trees that create a phony tropical appearance. They're all over the boardwalk.
But these palms are too close to the seawall.
The Army Corps of Engineers says the trees have to go. Their roots could damage the flood control barrier.
But the city manager, always ready to run interference on behalf of this beloved millionaire, fired off a letter to the Corps defending the trees.
Look, we live in a coastal area brimming with wetlands. Countless property owners have found themselves at odds with the Army Corps of Engineers and its rules. How many times has the city manager jumped in to help ordinary folks?
Rarely, I reckon. If ever.
It’s worth remembering that the city manager works for the city council - despite appearances, he is not on the payroll of one particular developer - and it seems his bosses haven’t even debated the palm tree problem.
The smartest member of Virginia Beach's city council - John Moss - says he's had enough of the city manager’s rogue behavior. He posted this on Facebook last weekend:
Let me be as clear as possible,
If the Army Corps says the trees have to go the trees have to go.
The City is the City Council and the City Council has not taken a position to defend the Cavalier Hotel.
Once again the City Manager is making public policy, which is City Council’s job.
I did not need another reason to hire a new city manager. Maybe my peers will finally see the light now and take the long over due action to replace the City Manager.
Moss is right.
It’s time to axe the city manager. And those stupid palm trees.