Virginia Beach budget proposal requests $12.5 million more for surf park project

Costs are rising for the Atlantic Park project again, and the City Council will consider shuffling millions of dollars around in Virginia Beach’s $2.5 billion proposed budget to pay for it.

Atlantic Park was lumped in with more than three dozen last minute additions, totaling $5.9 million, to the city’s proposed budget Tuesday. That includes $4 million in estimated school state revenue adjustments. Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson read the additions in what is called the “reconciliation letter” at the council’s informal session at City Hall.

Each spring, after the city holds public budget briefings for residents to weigh in on where their taxpayer dollars will be spent, the City Council tacks on additional items. It’s also when council members decide whether to lower taxes.

But this year, tax relief is a glaring omission even as city property assessments have significantly increased.

Councilman Chris Taylor, who wanted to find a way to lower taxes, questioned if his input and that of the residents who have been reaching out to council members have been fully considered.

“We had over 50 emails from individuals that expressed — we talk about meeting the needs of the community — a desire for lowering the taxes,” said Taylor. “I can’t say that we took the time to hear on ways we could relieve pressure for individuals striving to make ends meet.”

The proposed reconciled budget includes an additional $12.5 million to cover more Atlantic Park utility upgrades and construction of the entertainment venue. The city already is on the hook for $140 million for the project, of which the centerpiece will be a surf park. Venture Realty Group, the developer, is partnering with the city and recently closed the deal. Construction is underway.

The additional funds sought would be transferred from capital improvement programs already in the city manager’s proposed budget, which was first presented in March.

The $12.5 million will be taken from a sports tourism fund. About half of the money will be used for the utility work, and the other half will pay for retractable doors and finishes inside the entertainment venue, Councilman Joash Schulman, one of the liaisons for the project, said in an interview after the meeting.

Material costs have increased and the city has committed to paying for the venue and infrastructure needs.

“We’re at the finish line,” said Mayor Bobby Dyer. “We want to get this project completed.”

The reconciliation proposal would also shift $1.5 million for sprucing up the streets around the surf park project to instead pay to bury power lines and other utilities underground along 20th Street, Schulman said.

The city manager plans to allocate $19 million over six years to grow Virginia Beach’s sports tourism industry.

The proposed reconciled budget calls for adding $12.5 million back into the fund next year to reinvest in current facilities and explore development opportunities.

“Idle capital sitting around doesn’t make sense when you have an otherwise tight budget year and when you have things that need to get done now,” said Schulman.

Other proposed budget additions include $1.1 million for more body cameras for the Sheriff’s Office, $150,000 for signs in historic African American neighborhoods throughout the city, $20,000 for portable restrooms on the bayfront and $150,000 for park enhancements in Seatack and Bay Colony, among other items.

The City Council will vote on the proposed budget next Tuesday.

Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, stacy.parker@pilotonline.com