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Bryan Peeples, Waterfront Law Team

Waterfront Law Team Attorney Defeats City’s Claim of Inverse Condemnation in Ocean View Land Dispute

Last month, Waterfront Property Law Team attorney Bryan Peeples worked with a client to defend their land purchase in the Ocean View area of Norfolk. 

In 2022, one of our clients purchased a strip of land along the shore of Pretty Lake. Pretty Lake is a portion of Little Creek located in the City of Norfolk.  The land had been put up for sale by the City of Norfolk because the previous owner had not paid taxes on the parcel. Our clients purchased the strip of land with “all appurtenances,” meaning that they took ownership of the land along with all the permanent structures affixed to the land.

The dispute concerns ownership of a pier and park located on the land which our clients purchased. The pier and park had been constructed by the City of Norfolk in 2008, apparently without the permission of the previous owner. Our waterfront law team filed suit on behalf of our clients to protect their property rights to the land (including the structures) which our clients purchased at the City’s tax sale.

The City of Norfolk filed a counter-claim, asserting that it had gained ownership of the land, “pursuant to the law of inverse condemnation and the City's power of eminent domain.” Essentially, the City claimed that it had taken ownership of the property in 2008 via eminent domain when it built the pier and park, despite never having initiated any eminent domain proceedings and never having paid the previous owner the fair value of the land as required under the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions.

Even more interesting, the City claimed that it had taken the property in 2008 by “inverse condemnation.”  Inverse condemnation is a claim which may be brought by a citizen against a condemning authority such as the City of Norfolk, if the citizen believes that the government’s actions on the land have resulted in a de facto taking of his/her property which entitles the citizen to receive monetary compensation for the taking.

Our waterfront law team filed a “Demurrer” to the City’s inverse condemnation claim. A Demurrer is a motion to dismiss a cause of action.  The matter went to a hearing in the Norfolk Circuit Court. Attorneys for the City argued that they had the power to take property under their “inverse condemnation” theory.  Bryan argued that no such power exists under Virginia law, because inverse condemnation is an action which can only be brought by a citizen against the City, not by the City against a citizen. 

In a written letter Opinion, the Norfolk Circuit Court found in favor of our client. The Court affirmed that the City’s “inverse condemnation” theory lacked any foundation in Virginia law and dismissed the counter-claim.  Although the case is still ongoing, this victory marked a major milestone in protecting our client’s rights. It also affirmed that the power of the government to take private property is not absolute but must be exercised in strict accordance with the law.

The attorneys on our Waterfront Property Law Team have strong connections and significant legal experience. Contact our team if you need advice and assistance in connection with all your riparian property needs.


About The Author

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Bryan protects waterfront (riparian) property rights. His focus is Virginia aquaculture and maritime law, including the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act; the Virginia Primary Sand Dune and Beaches Act; and the Virginia Tidal Wetlands Act. Contact Bryan at (757) 490-6283 or