ISSUE: The Agricultural Reserve Program

FAC​T: The ARP conserves natural resources, and preserves the character and heritage of southern Virginia Beach.
​​​​​​​
corn field being harvestedThe ARP was established by the Virginia Beach City Council in 1995 as a way conserve the rural areas of Virginia Beach. Agriculture is a $130 million industry in our city that cultivates a wide range of crops and activities such as fruits, vegetables, livestock and greenhouse operations.

By purchasing the development rights to private land, the city can prevent something like a strawberry farm to being developed into a shopping center. Since the ARP’s inception, the development rights for 858 properties have been purchased by the City, preserving more than 9,700 acres. 

Recent events, such as Hurricane Matthew, have highlighted the need for stormwater infrastructure improvements to combat sea level rise and recurrent flooding. To secure the needed funding, the city manager proposed eliminating the ARP and redirecting its funds towards stormwater projects. His reasoning: Developers wouldn’t look to the flood-prone southern watershed for future development. However, this proposal was met with some reasonable opposition.

Proponents of the ARP argued that the program still served a purpose – without the ARP in place, there would be nothing to stop landowners from selling to a developer. On April 13, the City Council-appointed Agriculture Advisory Commission, which acts as a liaison between the rural community and City Council, held a special session and met with the city manager to find a middle ground. Thanks to the Commission’s efforts, a deal was struck.

Four options were put on the table for the Commission to consider, all of which had a variation of the same theme: Keep the ARP but transfer some of its funds to stormwater projects. The Commission voted to recommend a proposal to City Council that allows for up to 300 acres per year to be enrolled in the ARP, a one-time transfer of $1.5 million to the Ashville Park capital improvement project and a transfer of $990,000 each year for additional ditch and channel improvements in the southern watershed.

This proposal will ensure the ARP is funded through the next two decades and allow for critical flooding and stormwater projects to be addressed. If the proposal is approved by City Council during budget reconciliation, it would go into effect on July 1.

For more information about agriculture in Virginia Beach, please visit VBgov.com/agriculture.