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Neighbors push back against plans to build high-rise senior community in Virginia Beach

"Nobody objects to the expansion of Westminster-Canterbury. What we object to is the size of the expansion."

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Plans to build a high-rise senior living community on Shore Drive are moving forward, despite major pushback from people who live there.

“Between now and when the first shovel hits the ground, we’re in 'let’s stop this thing as it stands' mode,” said Empsy Munden, the Vice President of the Shore Drive Community Coalition

Munden is pushing back, even after a 5-2 vote in September. Virginia Beach council members approved to move forward with Westminster-Canterbury’s plans to build 217 independent living apartments, 75 assisted living, and 45 memory residences.

“I don’t think they listened at all. I think they had their minds made up in advance,” explained Shore Drive community member Paul Terkeltaub said.

People against the plans say one big reason is because the zoning district on Shore Drive doesn’t allow that dense and tall of a building.

“Twenty-two story exceeds the current city ordinance allowing only 165 feet for senior living, which is about 14 stories, which is the same height from their current buildings,” Tom Forrest said.

Now, members of Shore Drive Community Coalition sent a letter to council members asking them to reconsider the approval vote.

“We even had an interview with the mayor who indicated that it was already pretty much decided that they didn’t think they would revisit it,” Munden said.

13News Now reached out to Westminster-Canterbury leaders to see what they thought about the pushback. CEO Benjamin Unkle released a statement:

“Without our expansion, Virginia Beach faces a senior housing crisis over the next 10 years. Our 700 voters and many other voters around the city support this project. After three and one-half hours of testimony, a clear majority of the council saw the advantages of our proposal and design. The height serves more seniors and everyone around the building better. Making the building taller allowed us to make it THINNER in its east/west exposure: creating better views for as many people as possible, more open sky from Shore Drive, and greater architectural interest to the corridor. Some of our neighbors to the west opposed our west tower too 20 years ago, and at least one admitted that he was wrong. The City needs this non-profit, faith-based ministry to expand to help avoid a looming crisis for our citizens.”

"Nobody objects to the expansion of Westminster-Canterbury. What we object to is the size of the expansion," Forrest said.

Mayor Bobby Dyer said his goal is to form a group with community members and the developer to talk about the plans and to keep everyone in the loop.

Munden said the Shore Drive Community Coalition donated to a legal fund to possibly fight this battle in court.

13News Now reached out to every council member. 

John Moss said, "I was not on the prevailing side so I cannot request reconsideration. It is clear to me that a force was at work other than merits of the proposal based on objective land use principles. The voters of the larger north Shore Drive community can punish the incumbents who voted against them by voting them out."

Councilmember Sabrina Wooten said, "Thank you for your inquiry. Please note that I have not been briefed on this matter in detail. I am not aware that the vote was ruled or determined to be unfair in any way. Thank you for your kind attention to this matter."

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