Trace Hall Bio

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Trace Hall jokes that he “was born with muddy water flowing through his veins.” Growing up near Yorktown, VA, Trace spent much of his childhood out on the marshes fishing and kayaking. Now these same coastal marshes are threatened by salinity changes due to rising sea level. As a VCPC student this semester, Trace will be collaborating with two other students to research limits on local government’s authority to address sea level rise and recurrent flooding.

“By the nature of where we live, this is a big issue,” says Trace. “I believe that progressive and well-informed management of our coasts and wetlands is essential to preserving coastal ecosystems and still allowing for people to enjoy the water and all this area has to offer.”

While working for the Hampton City Attorney’s Office on land use issues, Trace became interested in the role lawyers can play in coastal management: interpreting legislative changes, identifying solutions for a specific locality, and coordinating with other jurisdictions. He heard about the VCPC through Garrett Gee, a William & Mary law student who participated in the VCPC last semester.

Under the Dillon Rule, Virginia’s local governments only have the authority that the General Assembly grants them. There are specific statutes that address recurrent flooding, yet localities often believe that they do not have authority to be proactive in dealing with the issue.

The VCPC has already examined the issue of local government authority under the Dillon Rule in Norfolk and Poquoson. This spring Trace will help to separate the perception of local limited authority from reality, so that Virginia localities can effectively adapt to sea level rise.

Trace completed his undergraduate studies at Hampden-Sydney College, where he majored in history with a minor in rhetoric. He is currently in his second year at William & Mary Law School.

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