Norfolk Special Service District Policy for Flood Protection

In June 2019, the Norfolk City Council adopted a policy authorizing the creation of Special Service Districts (SSD) to support implementation of local flood risk reduction and water quality improvement projects in the City of Norfolk, Virginia. SSDs enable a group of residents to agree to pay a tax to finance additional services in a particular neighborhood. The Norfolk policy allows SSD funding to be used to pay for flood mitigation, dredging, water quality improvements, and coastal protection projects. To initiate a project, residents must work with the City government to determine feasibility, boundary, and cost; the SSD plan must be developed with engineering, costs, and a timeline; 75 percent of parcel owners representing 50 percent of the property value in the area must agree to the project; and the City Council must approve construction of the project. SSDs present a useful tool for helping local governments finance projects to adapt to sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change by enabling residents to contribute to paying the costs to construct resilience projects. This can help cities to finance adaptation projects, while maintaining budgets to pay for ongoing services and other priority projects. 

The Norfolk policy lays out the following process for financing a project through an SSD:

  • To initiate a project, residents must work with the City's Department of Neighborhood Development and Public Works to assess the project's boundary and feasibility.
  • To initiate further study of a project, 30 percent of parcel owners in the area to be benefited by the project must sign a petition supporting development of an SSD plan.
  • The Department of Public Works and Office of Budget and Strategic Planning then develop an SSD plan analyzing engineering and cost for the project. The SSD plan must include the name of the project and its boundaries, a description of the proposed services provided by the project and the SSD, the purpose for the SSD, a budget for the services provided, a detailed implementation plan, a timeline for project start and end date, and a contingency plan identifying areas of major risk (e.g., cost overruns, inability to get permits).
  • To approve construction, at least 75 percent of parcel owners representing at least 50 percent of the property value of the benefited area must agree to the SSD plan and the tax to support implementation.
  • Finally, the City Council must formally approve the project and its implementation to finance the project and to ensure that the project will not require the City to exceed debt limits.
  • Once a project is approved, City departments oversee procurement and construction.

Pursuant to Virginia State Code, the policy notes that SSDs cannot be used to support schools, police, or general government services. 


Publication Date: June 11, 2019


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  • Agency guidance/policy

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