SDCC asks City Council to Reconsider Vote on Westminster Canterbury High Rise High Density Development

Official email sent to City Council asking for reconsideration of vote to approve Westminster Canterbury high rise high density expansion.  Click here for printable version Request to CC to Reconsider WC Vote

Supporting documents:

Failure to provide HUD affordable housing;

1998 acknowledgement of 165ft senior housing height limit


Dear Mayor Dyer and Council Members Berlucchi, Wooten, Tower and Henley,

The Shore Drive Community Coalition (SDCC), as voted at our September 28, 2020 meeting, formally requests City Council at your October 6th meeting to reconsider the approval vote of the Westminster Canterbury (WC) application heard on September 22, 2020.

It is our understanding that Council has a 2 week period to reconsider votes made at formal Council hearings.  There are a multitude of reasons the vote for the WC application should be reconsidered, several of them are listed below.  It is our hope that at least two of you will agree to reconsider your erroneous decision.

Reasons why Council needs to reconsider the WC application vote of September 22nd:

  • Council Member Abbott should be allowed to vote. Abbott was unable to attend the vote due to a family emergency, but with only 8 members able to vote as a result of conflict of interests, allowing all qualified voting members a chance to participate is a necessity.  Decisions like the WC application that are based solely on Council’s opinions need to have all voting members participate.
  • Council Members Berlucchi and Wooten should explain their reasons for support. Since the approval of the WC expansion was based solely on Council opinion, all the members provided explanation for their votes except Council members Berlucchi and Wooten.  A decision that changes the future of the Bayfont demands that they explain why they ignored the community’s concerns and voted in favor of the project.
  • WC’s claim that a density of +255% over code is needed to eliminate the approaching silver tsunami is irrelevant. This high density development will not provide enough housing for all the seniors that will be part of the tsunami, nor is it this project’s responsibility to do so.  A larger City approach should be taken.  One that requires all development to stay within the codes, plans and guidelines.  In fact there are over 1000 new units being built or planned within a 5 mile radius of WC.  New Millineium Senior Living – 250 units; Burton Station Senior Housing – 40 units; Overture Senior Apts – 150 apts; The Pearl – 260 apts; Marlin Bay – 230 apts; Marina Shores expansion – 60 apts;  Reducing the number of units for the WC expansion to be equal to the current campus density won’t adversely impact the senior housing market.  If the supply is there, the developers will come.
  • There are zero affordable housing units in this expansion. The Senior Housing Design Guideline allows density increases above code only for HUD defined affordable senior housing.  This type of allowance is common practice and shows up in California State laws as +20% for senior housing and even Alexandria Virginia as a +30% increase.  The City’s Senior Housing Advisory Committee identified the lack of affordable HUD housing in this project and requested WC to supply documentation as to how they are meeting this requirement.  None has been produced.  Allowing increased density because a business plan needs it to maximize profit is not allowed.
  • Maximizing tax collection is not a valid application review parameter. There is no requirement in the City codes, plans or guidelines that says tax revenue is more important than maintaining the character of a neighborhood.  A smaller scale project allows the characteristics of the area to be maintained and also allow an increase in taxes over what is being collected now.
  • Ignoring City codes, plans and guidelines will set precedent for future development in the Bayfront area. For the past 20 years, it has been the general opinion of the community that the development along Shore Drive has been too boxy and dense, but the residents have understood the overlay requirements and made sure projects didn’t violate them.  The WC project you approved ignores the height restriction of 165ft that was adhered to for the 2nd WC building.  The density of the 22 story tower site is 255% over the 24/units per acre code.  The Senior Housing Guidelines require the site to be a minimum of 3 acres, yet it is only 2.56.  The guidelines also require the project to have a mass and scale that doesn’t adversely impact the surrounding community’s character.  Approving a project that ignores all of these requirements will provide the legal precedent for all future developers to ignore codes and ask for approval based on conditional use similar to this one.

The City’s lack of civic engagement for a project of this magnitude and impact is appalling.  The Bayfront residents pride themselves on civil discourse and the ability to work with the City to find compromising solutions.  The fact that we were never given the chance to discuss our concerns is not acceptable.  All of you ran election campaigns that championed improved civic engagement for the citizens.  We demand that you take the opportunity at your October 6th meeting and reconsider your vote of September 22nd.  Denying the proposed WC development will allow the necessary City facilitated civic dialogue to take place needed to make an informed decision of this importance.  A smaller less dense development would be an acceptable compromise that will keep future development of the Bayfront in accordance with codes, plans and guidelines and also allow WC residents to enjoy their new amenities and City Council to enjoy an increase in tax revenue. Keeping the approval of the high rise high density project will lead to a Bayfront that resembles Town Center and result in the loss of our neighborhood character which is the main reason we all love this area.



Todd Solomon

Shore Drive Community Coalition President



“I will express my disapproval on Nov. 3.” And “Virginia Beach citizens will know exactly who to vote out of office on Nov 3.”

From Letters to the Editor:

Wrong move

For the first time in my 50 years of living in Virginia Beach, I attended a City Council meeting. The only topic was a vote on the massive $250 million expansion of Westminster-Canterbury on Shore Drive that includes a 22-story glass tower. Speakers for and against the expansion presented their views in a most informative manner. There is no doubt that the quality of life and care for hundreds of senior citizens is top-notch at Westminster-Canterbury. On the other hand, the quality of life in the Shore Drive area, which is primarily residential, will be forever changed for thousands.

Despite compelling evidence that current city zoning laws do not permit a structure greater than 165 feet in height, the council approved the Westminster-Canterbury expansion that is taller than 250 feet.

Some of the rationale for approval voiced by Mayor Bobby Dyer, Councilwoman Barbara Henley, and Councilman Guy Tower was that Virginia Beach needs medical care facilities for its senior citizens. I couldn’t agree more, but that care is in a different building, not in a 22-story, 250-foot independent living facility. This 22-story structure will only open the door for future developers to make Shore Drive “high-rise heaven.” I will express my disapproval on Nov. 3.

Richard Malla, Virginia Beach


Click here to see the results of City Council’s 5-2 Vote

on Westminster Canterbury


Why bother?

As a longtime resident of Lynnhaven Colony, I watched Tuesday’s Virginia Beach City Council meeting regarding the approval or disapproval of Westminster-Canterbury’s expansion with much interest. What I understood from Westminster proponents is: It’s a great place; they really care; Virginia Beach does not have enough senior housing; and that Beach boomers cannot wait to move there. What I heard from the opponents was that Westminster will destroy their view; shade their homes; and eliminate beach access that residents deserve, use and have grown to expect. It will incorporate a building that will be out of place, depreciate their home values, and that Westminster is actually unaffordable to most people.

What I heard from the council (except for Council members John Moss and Aaron Rouse, who I applaud for their sensibilities) was that the council meeting was a red herring, set up at the Virginia Beach Convention Center so as many people as possible could waste their time and voice their views; and, yes,

thanks for your comments and concerns, but we know better, don’t really care what you think or how this action might impact you,

and we’re going to pretend to think about it for say — five minutes — before announcing our foregone conclusion. Thank you very much. Virginia Beach citizens will know exactly who to vote out of office on Nov 3.

Kriste Brown Camsky, Virginia Beach

City Council Votes 5-2 to Support Westminster-Canterbury’s 22 Story High Rise High Density Application

The Shore Drive Community Coalition would like to thank Council Member John Moss and Council Member Aaron Rouse for their leadership and understanding of the community’s concerns.  They made their decisions based on citizens input, adverse impact to neighborhoods and violations of existing codes, plans and guidelines.  They didn’t let the allure of tax dollars and promises to solve the perceived problem of the approaching silver tsunami of retires influence their opinions.  Please remember to thank them for their efforts.

The SDCC would like to thank all the members of the community for their emails, phone calls, letters and for speaking in opposition at hearings.  Your dedication and efforts spent the past 10 months fighting this precedent setting project were truly heroic.  As we see now, the lack of City civic engagement wasn’t by accident.  With more civic engagement, it would have been harder for those that voted in favor to justify their support of a high rise high density project.

The following table shows how each Council Member voted on the application.  This information may be helpful for future dealings with City Council.

Red – Voted in favor of the application (Dyer, Wooten, Berlucchi*, Henley, Tower**); Green – Voted against the application (Moss, Rouse); Yellow – Conflict of Interest (Wilson, Wood, Jones); White – Absent from Vote (Abbott)

*-Made motion to approve, **-2nd motion


A Call a Day Keeps the High Rise Away – Call City Council Campaign to Deny Proposed Westminster Canterbury 22 Story High Rise Development

Dear Shore Drive/Bayfront Residents,

It’s been 9 months since the community first learned of Westminster Canterbury’s plans to build the monstrous 22 story, 217 unit precedence setting high rise structure in the Bayfront neighborhood.  Next week, on Tuesday September 22nd at 6:00pm, City Council will hold the final hearing and vote on this application.  Mountains of information has been obtained by SDCC and the adjacent impacted residents.  This data be reviewed here

Suffice to say, it can all come down to the votes of 7 Council Members.  With 3 of the 11 members recusing themselves due to Conflict of Interests, the remaining 8 would require a 5 to 3 vote in favor to approve the application.  A 4 to 4 tie vote fails.  So the goal to stop this proposed plan is to get 4 “NO” votes from the remaining 8 members.  One member, Mr. John Moss, has gone on public record as voting “NO”, so that leaves 7 members and the need to gain 3 “NO” votes.

With 7 days remaining until the hearing, we are asking all Bayfront Residents to call a different Council Member each day and ask them to vote “NO” to this proposed application.  Seven days and seven Council Members, pretty easy.  The list of Council Members and their contact information is provided below.

It’s pretty simple, just ask the Council Members highlighted in YELLOW below (in person if they answer or on their voicemail) to vote “NO” to the proposed WC High Rise.  Tell them the development doesn’t comply with any of the CIty’s codes, plans or guidelines and ask them to facilitate a civic discussion with the residents, developer and City Staff that can work towards a smaller and less dense compromise that isn’t precedent setting.

Here is the list of Council Members and their phone numbers.  If you don’t feel comfortable calling them, please send them an email.  You can send the entire City Council an email by using the following address,

BAYFRONT ADVISORY COMMISSION Ocean Park Volunteer Rescue Squad 3769 E. Stratford Drive (enter on side opposite Shore Drive) September 17, 2020 2:30 pm

Agenda Thursday:

STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION – 2:30-3:30 pm (Prioritization of items from last month’s discussion)





Review and Approval of Minutes from 8/20/2020



Welcome Guests and Introductions  Phil Davenport, Chair





Design – Bob Magoon, Faith Christie, Joe Bovee (volunteer)

Communications  Vacant

Public Safety, Transit, Parking & Pedestrian Access – Charles Malbon



Conditional Use Permit for 7/11 with gas pumps – 4493 Shore Drive

Discussion of short term rental districts along Shore Drive




Ocean Shores Condominium Board Fundraising for Legal Fees to Oppose Westminster Canterbury Proposed Expansion

The following letter is from the Ocean Shores Condominium Board requesting support to help cover costs for legal fees to help them oppose the current proposed 22 story tall expansion of Westminster Canterbury.  Ocean Shores Condos are located directly to the east of the proposed high rise and will be impacted the most by the massive structure.  If you believe the proposed iconic landmark hire rise is not in keeping with the neighborhood character of the Bayfront area, Please help by donating and/or forwarding this post to others.

Ocean Shores Condo Legal Fees Fundraiser Letter


Dear Shore Drive Community members:

We are writing you concerning the expansion of Westminster Canterbury.  Most of you have gone to meetings opposing the expansion of Westminster Canterbury, or have expressed personal interest against the expansion as it stands now.

This letter/email is from The Ocean Shore Condominiums.  We are a 63 unit condo directly to the east of Westminster Canterbury on Ocean Shore Avenue.

The board of Ocean Shore Condominium, has been fighting to mitigate some of the most egregious design plans of Westminster Canterbury’s expansion since the details were presented to Ocean Shore Condominium owners December 17, 2019, by WC management; the expansion plan was presented as final.   We have attended many meetings, written numerous letters to the planning commission, and made presentations to that commission March 11, 2020.  Now we are actively in contact with the City Council and are prepared to attend their meeting on September 22, 2020, in order to voice our concerns.  Beginning with the Dec. 17, 2019, presentation, Ocean Shore hired an attorney and an architect to help represent us and the community through this entire process.  Many of us have attended meetings with the attorney, and she helped voice our opposition in front of the planning commission.  In addition, she will be making a case against aspects of the expansion plan at the City Council Meeting.

To date, we have spent over $19,500 on legal fees and another $6,000 for the advice and representation we have gotten from our architect.  We have more costs coming as our attorney and architect will be representing all of us at the City Council Meeting upcoming on September 22, 2020.  We are trying to protect the housing values and the wonderful lifestyle of the entire Shore Drive Area and therefore we are all in this together.

We are asking you to help support us financially.  Please consider contributing to our bills in the quest to get Westminster Canterbury to change their expansion.  If you are an individual and can afford $10, $25, $100, or any other amount we would appreciate your help.  If you represent an association or a civic league and you have the same passion as Ocean Shore to continue this fight, then we ask you to financially support us as a community with as much as you deem appropriate.  Ocean Shore Condo is fighting for the entire Shore Drive Area.  We need your financial help and cannot continue to fight without your help.


To contribute, please write a check made out to Ocean Shore Condominium and forward it to the address below:

Ocean Shore Condominium

Attn: Jay Frieden, Treasurer

2416 Ocean Shore Crescent #401

Virginia Beach, Va. 23451


Whether you contribute financially or not we still need your support.  Please keep contacting the City Council, your Congressional representative and the Governor to keep the pressure on our City Council.  We want to protect everyone in The Shore Drive Area.

Very Truly Yours,

Ocean Shore Condo Board

City Council Plans to Reschedule Hearing of Westminster Canterbury Proposed Expansion to Tuesday Sept. 22nd

Tuesday September 22nd will be the new scheduled date for City Council to hear Westminster Canterbury’s proposed expansion application.


City Council at their Tuesday briefing agreed to move ahead with a motion to defer the upcoming August 25th advertised hearing of the WC application to the new hearing date of Tuesday September 22nd.  The September 22nd City Council hearing will still take place at Convention Center at 6:00pm.

The following is an official email from Mr. Mark Stiles, City Attorney, confirming the decision of Council to defer and reschedule.

From: Mark Stiles
Sent: Wednesday, August 19, 2020 3:18 PM
To: Todd Solomon
Cc: William R. Landfair
Subject: Re: Westminster Canterbury Hearing Deferral Documentation

Mr. Solomon,

Yesterday the Council agreed to defer the Westminster item to a special meeting on September 22.  A formal vote to that effect will occur next Tuesday and the published agenda for next week will show that it is on for deferral to that date.

Best wishes,

Mark Stiles


The main reason for the requested change in hearing date was to allow this item to be the only Planning Item on the agenda which will create a more manageable meeting.  The August 25th agenda contains 28 Planning Items and is scheduled to be a joint City Council and Planning Commission hearing which potentially doubles the time for each item to be heard.  A brief excerpt from the City Manager’s letter to City Council is shown below explaining this in more detail.  The entire letter can be read by clicking below

CM letter to CC re Deferral of WC to 9.22