Chesapeake is an independent city located in the South Hampton Roads portion of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area of Virginia in the United States. One of the cities Hampton Roads, Chesapeake was formed in 1963 by a political consolidation of the city of South Norfolk with the former Norfolk County, which dated to 1691. Chesapeake is the second-largest city by land area in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Chesapeake is a diverse city with few urban areas as well as many square miles of protected farmland, forests, and wetlands, including a substantial portion of the Great Dismal Swamp. Extending all the way from the rural border with North Carolina to the harbor area of Hampton Roads adjacent to the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Chesapeake is located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and has miles of waterfront industrial, commercial and residential property.
It is currently the third largest city in Virginia in terms of population. According to the 2010 Census, its population is 222,209. In 2011, Chesapeake was named the 21st best city in America by Bloomberg Businessweek.
In 1963, the new independent city of Chesapeake was created when the former independent city of South Norfolk consolidated with Norfolk County. The consolidation, authorized by the Virginia General Assembly, was approved and the new name selected by the voters of each communities by referendum.
Formed in 1691 in the Virginia Colony, Norfolk County had originally included essentially all the area which became the towns and later cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and South Norfolk, but had seen its area frequently reduced as these cities added territory through annexations after 1871. Becoming an independent city was a method for the former county to stabilize borders with neighbors, as cities could not annex territory from each other.
The relatively small city of South Norfolk had become an incorporated town within Norfolk County in 1919, and became an independent city in 1922. It was also motivated to make a change which would put it on a more equal footing in other aspects with the much larger cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. By the late 1950s, although immune from annexation by the bigger cities, the most recent suit by the city of Norfolk against Norfolk County would have taken all of the county land adjoining South Norfolk.
The changes which created Chesapeake were part of a wave of changes in the structure of local government in southeastern Virginia which took place between 1952 and 1975.
Chesapeake made national headlines in 2003 when, under a court-ordered change of venue, the community hosted the first trial of convicted murderer Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo for one of the 2002 terrorist-style attacks. A jury spared him a potential death sentence, choosing a sentence of "life in prison without parole" instead for the young man, who was 17 years old at the time of the crime spree. A jury in neighboring Virginia Beach sentenced his older partner John Allen Muhammad to death for another of the attacks.
See article Beltway sniper attacks