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Are City Of Norfolk Officials Stonewalling Property Developers In Ocean View?

It's not so pretty on Pretty Lake

Luke Reed and his family, long-time Ocean View residents and small business owners, say that the city has gone to extraordinary lengths to block them from developing waterfront property into more restaurants, retail, and housing.

The latest legal filings in the case between the City of Norfolk and the developers say that Norfolk officials have not made a good faith effort to provide discovery, i.e. the process of sharing evidence with a legal opponent. The City’s legal response was several claims that the court had made errors in its recent rulings. The Reeds contend that this is just the latest in a pattern of failing to respond to legal filings, not complying with court deadlines, and more. The legal tactics, the Reeds say, have been done in hopes they abandon the development plans in the light of mountains of legal fees. 

The main plot of land in question, though there are several, is a long winding plot of shore line along Pretty Lake Avenue, which the Reeds first bought in 2022. Since the sale of the land, they claim that the City of Norfolk has repeatedly built new structures on the land, despite it not being owned by the City. The Reeds’ lawyers say that there is no evidence in title or deed that the City of Norfolk has the necessary easements or right of ways to allow any of the structures, which include trashcans, gazebos, benches, and other amenities at the East Ocean View Community Center. They even have documentation of the previous owner’s refusal to allow an easement for the fishing pier on the site. The City has objected to all of those allegations in court, however, claiming everything has been constructed with the appropriate legal means. 

The Reeds say they’ve been attempting to be gracious about the issue and to work with the City of Norfolk on a solution, offering to approve easements on the land in return for being able to develop the land that is unaffected by the City’s construction. It’s on that untouched western side of their parcel that they wish to build large dock structures that would include up to ten small retail shops, two restaurants, and potentially floating residential structures. They went so far as to offer to improve the current community center by funding the construction of a public pool there. The details, they say, are still up for discussion, but City of Norfolk officials have refused to even have a meeting with them. 

A City spokesperson says that the property has been undevelopable since it was purchased in 2022 and that many of the structures cited have been in place for over a decade. They go on to say that the section of paper street on the parcel has been dedicated for public use for over a century and called the Reeds “land salvagers.” From the City’s perspective the land was never developable and they have a duty to “defend the rights of the public to use the public streets and public spaces.”

The City of Norfolk's stance raises significant questions. Are they truly protecting the public's interests, are other motives at play, and have both sides been honest players? Their reluctance to even meet with the Reeds casts a shadow of doubt over their intentions. If the City loses the legal battle, the public may question its tactics and the justification behind hindering potentially beneficial development. This case could ignite a public debate about transparency, city planning, and the importance of balancing public spaces with economic growth.

The future of Pretty Lake and East Beach hangs in the balance. While the Reed family's victory in the courts might open the door for development, the hurdles are far from over. The dream of an activated waterfront depends on their resilience and continued support for the project. If the Reeds can gain the necessary approvals and successfully navigate the complexities of development, they might just create a thriving new hub for the neighborhood. But for now, the fate of this shoreline rests in the hands of local judges.  

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