As climate risk grows, cities test a tough strategy: Saying ‘no’ to developers

Lawmakers in Virginia Beach stymied new development on marshland near the neighborhood of Princess Anne Quarters, triggering a battle with home builders. / Credit. Julia Rendleman for The New York Times

By Christopher Flavelle and John Schwartz | The New York Times

Glimpsed from a kayak on West Neck Creek, this swampy piece of land, a pocket of red maple and loblolly pine tucked behind growing subdivisions, doesn’t look like the stuff of existential debate.

But this is where Virginia Beach, squeezed between the clamor for new housing and the relentlessness of flooding worsened by climate change, decided to draw its line in the mud.

The city last year became one of a small but growing number of communities willing to say no to developers — despite their political and economic clout — when it rejected a proposal to build a few dozen homes on this soggy parcel of 50 acres, arguing that those homes would be unsafe. The developers sued, accusing officials of making their project a scapegoat as voters clamored for action after disastrous flooding.

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