City, Church Settle Dispute in Historic Kempsville

City Provides Land and Cash in Exchange for Half-Acre for Expanded Road and Sidewalk

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The City of Virginia Beach and Emmanuel Episcopal Church have agreed to settle an eminent domain dispute at the Historic Kempsville intersection.

Under terms of the proposed agreement, in exchange for a half-acre of church property condemned  by the city to widen and relocate Princess Anne Road, the city will pay the church about $1.1 million, will transfer to it about 1.5 acres next to the church and will seek closure of a half-acre portion of the old Princess Anne Road, to be added to the church property.  The settlement takes into account both the property acquired from the church and the church’s concerns regarding the effects of the city’s acquisition of the property and the road relocation on the church’s pre-school, parking and access.

The church will use part of the money to build a wall along the new Princess Anne Road to separate the new road from the church’s pre-school. Citizens will get an improved road and new sidewalk that helps move traffic through one of the busiest intersections in Virginia Beach. The agreement was reached after an all-day mediation session Monday.  It must be ratified by the City Council and the church’s vestry.

Protecting the church is part of a larger plan to create a new, special place in the heart of old Kempsville by moving and improving the intersection of Witchduck, Kempsville and Princess Anne Roads.  The plan for the larger area surrounding the intersection also calls for a new public park and encourages private development of new homes and businesses that honor the spirit of old Kempsville.

“This agreement ensures that Emmanuel Episcopal will remain a healthy, vital part of Historic Kempsville,” said Mayor Williams D. Sessoms, Jr.  “Great things are coming to this area of Virginia Beach, so it was crucial that we settle this dispute once and for all.  I believe this agreement is a victory for the church and for the citizens of Virginia Beach.”

Church leaders expressed relief and satisfaction with the settlement.

“This settlement removes the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over our 170-year-old church for so many years,” said the Rev. John A. Baldwin, Emmanuel's rector. “We can now focus our full energies on our spiritual mission to the people or Kempsville and Virginia Beach. We appreciate the efforts of the mayor and vice mayor in bringing this matter to a mutually beneficial conclusion.”

In 2006, the City Council adopted the Historic Kempsville Area Master Plan to address several issues in the area. It calls for preserving historic buildings – including Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Kempsville Baptist Church, Pleasant Hall and the Carraway House – and creating a special district that recalls Kempsville’s history as the former seat of Princess Anne County.

The road project is under way and is scheduled for completion in March 2014. The public park was recently completed on the site of the former Kempsville Pony League baseball field.  The old Kemps Landing School will be preserved and converted to offices and apartments, surrounded by modern apartments and open spaces.

In its heyday during the colonial era, Kempsville was a thriving port village along the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River. Many historic structures built through the mid-1800s survived in Kempsville through the 1960s. Eventually, Kempsville became a suburban hub in old Princess Anne County and, later, one of the busiest crossroads in Virginia Beach.

For more information on the Historic Kempsville Area Master Plan and to read answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit

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