VB neighbors call new school a nuisance, want changes

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Some homeowners in Virginia Beach say they’re determined to continue their fight with the school district, after a middle school was built closer to their homes than they expected. The group says Great Neck Middle School is a nuisance and is adversely affecting their homes.

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals listened to five current and former neighbors on Irish Bank Drive make their case for modifications for the school. The board decided that steps already taken by the school district were sufficient.

Document: Virginia Beach site plan

The school is adjacent to the home of John Nankervis. “What I learned today was if you’re a school, then you don’t have to follow the same rules as any commercial or private builder,” Nankervis said about the ruling earlier this month.

The project was completed about three years ago, but neighbors say it’s become a nuisance.

Nankervis and his neighbors say somewhere between design and completion, the school ended up about a hundred feet closer to their homes than the plans for the project had shown. They say this is causing problems with noise, bright lights, and a mist drifting onto their properties from the air conditioning equipment. The homeowners don’t want to tear down the school, but they do want some modifications. “So we would like to see a vertical extension of the walls around the cooling tower, so that the noise just bounces into space, and the same with the mist,” Nankervis said.

Document: Nankervis public hearing application

One neighbor who had lived in the neighborhood since 1981, Steve Cooper, got so frustrated he moved. “It’s been a terrible experience, I sold my house,” Cooper told the Zoning Board. “I just couldn’t live with it, I couldn’t live with the arrogance on the part of the school board people.”

Nankervis says he and his wife have thought about moving, too, and recalls the day when Cooper left the neighborhood. “He put his heart and soul into the house, it was perfect, and he was ready, but he couldn’t stand it anymore and he ended up selling it.”

Nankervis says the spray from the school’s air conditioning gear creates mold and mildew on the back wall of his home. The neighbors also say the closer school means the lights from the school and the parking lots, cars and trucks are brighter, and the noise from the garbage trucks is louder. “As far as the lights go, they go off at 11:30 – maybe,” Nankervis told the board. “Sometimes they are on for five days straight.”

The Virginia Beach School System planted pine trees as a barrier, but the homeowners want a ten-foot masonry wall built, and they want the garbage dumpsters to be moved elsewhere.

Attorney Carl Eason represented the school district at the zoning hearing. “When you look at this building, either conceptually or as-built, it complies in every respect with the setback,” Eason said at the zoning hearing.

Eason also described more than $200,000 worth of improvements the school district has made since the project was completed, including increasing the wall around the air conditioner cooling towers, surrounding them with acoustically designed sound walls, adding extra landscaping along the property line, and managing lighting and trash pickup schedules.

Document: GNMS cooling towers and dumpsters added

Eason says the plans at the five public meetings before construction were conceptual, not final, but Nankervis says that was not the homeowners’ understanding. “They built the school 110 feet away from where they said they were gonna build it, and they added a bunch of other things to it,” Nankervis said. “The person that did it is not held accountable.”

The zoning board ruled that the school district did not have to make the additional modifications that the neighbors wanted. Their attorney Bryan Meals says the group will appeal. “They’ve done some things, no question, but we believe there are more things that could be done and we’ve asked them to do that.”

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