VIRGINIA BEACH — The City Council this week declared a dozen homes in Sandbridge to be in a state of emergency.
The city received 23 requests from residents there asking the city include them in the decree. They said the accumulating sand on their properties is a risk to public health and safety and that they can remove it only with an expensive and time-consuming permit — or if an emergency is declared.
The city reviewed each property and determined 12 posed significant risks and included them in declaration. The designation allows them to remove their sand now, without any further authorization from the city.
The requests came a month after the neighborhood’s civic league asked for the whole area to be placed in a state of emergency, and two weeks after homeowners attended a City Council meeting asking for help. Residents said the sand — blown onto their property by wind — exposed bulkheads, thereby posing a danger to foot-traffic, and rendered swimming pool enclosures useless. One said sand has piled so high and so thickly against some windows and doors that they can’t be opened.
The residents are legally forbidden from placing sand back on the beach without authorization from the local wetlands board. Permits can take up to 90 days and $3,000 to obtain, and each one allows sand to be relocated only once. Residents who act without a permit risk fines and can be forced to apply retroactively for the document.
City staff have said solutions beyond the emergency declaration may be necessary. Examples include making the permits easier and cheaper to obtain, and rewriting them to allow sand removal within a time period rather than limiting them to single uses.