The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, August 21, 1996            TAG: 9608210003
SECTION: FRONT                   PAGE: A16  EDITION: FINAL 
TYPE: Editorial 
                                            LENGTH:   55 lines


When Virginia Beach City Council drew an imaginary Green Line through the city in 1979, it wanted to halt the rampant, ugly, unplanned development that had spread like poison ivy through the northern part of the city, straining services and outpacing roads, sewers and water.

The Green Line signified a geographical boundary on cracker-box houses, strip malls and traffic congestion.

At the time, council was right. But during the ensuing years, it wasn't the Green Line so much as a freshwater shortage that allowed farmers to keep on farming without fielding seductive offers for their land from developers hungry for cheap acreage.

With the Lake Gaston pipeline under construction, the sleeping giant of development will soon reawaken. The city must decide when and how it will allow carefully managed growth south of the Green Line.

If council automatically rejects all nonconforming development south of the Green Line as suggested in the Comprehensive Plan, it should do so while publicly acknowledging that the city may never become the thriving golf paradise and retirement community many dream of.

Already, some developers are testing the Green Line. Dickie Foster, who is known for quality construction, is one of the first. And what a tantalizing proposal he makes.

Foster wants to build a 900-unit upscale retirement development, complete with a championship public golf course and other services on 900 acres of land south of the Green Line. He has said he will build the roads and bring the utilities to the development.

Foster's vision is exactly what Virginia Beach needs: wealthy citizens who pay more in taxes than they require in services. With residents having a minimum age of 55, few children would live in this sprawling development, thus there would be no need for new schools. Fire and rescue services are already based nearby.

Foster's plan is just one item City Council may discuss during a two-day retreat this week at the Pavilion.

We hope the plan will engender spirited discussion by the politicians who hold the city's future in their hands.

It is easy to show resolve by dismissing Foster's plan. The harder - and in our opinion smarter - course would be for council to give serious consideration to this innovative plan when it is presented formally. Foster's retirement community seems too good to pass up.

In the near future Council should reconfront the problems of growth and provide for some realistic flexiblity in its policy toward limited development south of the Green Line.

Does anyone seriously believe that the Green Line can be held indefinitely if Virginia Beach truly plans to become an economically competitive East Coast city?

If the Green Line is destined to be overrun, what better way to go than with a planned retirement community and golf course that would fatten the city's tax base without straining services? by CNB