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VIRGINIA BEACH - The Marina at Marina Shores, which opened to great fanfare in 1991 and was lauded as one of the most modern facilities on the East Coast, may soon be history.

Gale Higgs, who owns the marina off Great Neck Road, has submitted plans to the city to build 332 apartments on the 9.2 acres.

Higgs wants to tear down the two restaurants on the property and a storage building that houses about 400 boats. The 190 wet-boat slips would remain.

"I'm actually pretty excited about it," Higgs said. "I think it's a major improvement."

The storage building, however, needs significant and costly renovations to fit the newer boats, which are longer and wider, Higgs said.

"It's a crossroads," she said.

"It was time to go with either an extreme contemporary marina or go to residential."

Higgs said she has been considering the marina's future for three years.

In 2000, Higgs proposed expanding the marina but withdrew her application after opposition from neighbors and City Council members.

The residential proposal needs approval from the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Board, the city Planning Commission and the City Council.

Some neighbors are already sending out warning signals.

Harry Biela, vice president of the nearby Long Creek Cove condominium association, said he is worried about construction trucks driving through the neighborhood and the increase in traffic that the apartments would bring.

Motorists heading to the marina and restaurants pass through his neighborhood now, but the apartments likely would bring more constant traffic during rush hours, Biela said.

"Right now, there's a boater here and a boater there, and occasionally if there's a party, there's traffic," he said.

"But we all bought the houses with the marina there. It was a situation that was already there."

According to the developer's traffic study, the apartments would mean fewer cars on local roads.

The city has not completed its own traffic analysis, said Karen Prochilo, a city planner.

City officials also have questions about how the public would access the wet slips through the apartment complex and what effect the project would have on the Chesapeake Bay, Prochilo said.

The proposal may change. Higgs said she isn't sure whether the homes will be all rentals or if there may be condominiums mixed in.

Higgs and her late husband, David Levine, fought regulatory agencies and negotiated with civic leagues for more than 10 years to build the $12 million marina, part of a plan for residential and commercial development at Great Neck Road and Lynnhaven Drive.

Reach Deirdre Fernandes at (757) 222-5121 or [email protected]
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