Proposed amendment not wise

Published 8:22 pm Monday, October 22, 2018

To the editor:

The Nov. 6 Virginia election ballot contains two statewide ballot initiatives. Question No. 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 Board of Directors of the Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship ( 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.

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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 to refrain from building or rebuilding 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 seawalls would be unfair to owners of neighboring property, especially 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 from the inflow not absorbed by the protected neighboring property.

Thirdly, waterfront developers may gain an additional incentive to purchase and build up low-lying properties, further exacerbating flooding of neighboring residents and working waterfronts.

Finally, is very concerned with ecological damage caused by further hardening of the shoreline and inability for environmentally critical wetlands to absorb the additional inflows. 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. However, we believe this amendment is not a wise, fair, or environmentally sound way to achieve that goal.

Mike Ahart