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Living on one of Norfolk's drinking water reservoirs is worthwhile, but also comes with challenges and restrictions. Take some time and review the other Questions in this section.
Be aware that you are not purchasing property up to the waters edge. Norfolk owns property around each of its reservoirs and it can vary. For Lake Whitehurst and Little Creek Reservoir, the City owns 25 feet from the normal water elevation and owns 10 feet from the normal elevation for Lake Smith. Even with erosion, the City still owns this property. For Lake Lawson, Western Branch Reservoir, Lake Prince, and Burnt Mills there are fixed property lines. Check your property plat.
If the property you are purchasing has an existing bulkhead, riprap revetment, pier, fence or any other structure on Norfolk's property, you will need to secure a Shoreline Protection Permit. Even though the previous owner has a permit, it will not transfer to you. These structures come with the sale of the property and you are responsible for their upkeep and maintenance. Please note the Liability Insurance requirements and it is recommended that this be in place when you Close on the property. Not all insurance companies will include a municipality as an Additional Insured on a Homeowner Policy and you don't want to have to make a change after Closing.
If you are interested in adding a pier, shoreline protection or other structure, review the Shoreline Protection Permit application package and contact us with any questions.
We know that you would like to see the water. However, Norfolk does not allow the removal of trees and underbrush of any size without the proper permits. In many cases, we will allow the trimming of lower limbs to create a "view corridor" but not allow tree removal. Call us to discuss your proposed project before undertaking any work.
Boating and fishing are permitted, but there are limits on these activities. Swimming is prohibited! A boat, canoe, or kayak can be placed into the reservoirs with motors no larger than 10-horsepower. All boats used on Norfolk reservoirs are required to have a Norfolk Boat Permit. Types of boats that are not allowed in the reservoirs are stand up paddleboards, sailboats, houseboats, inflatables of any kind, and personal water craft (ex: jet skis), surfboards and similar devices. Don't forget that this reservoir is part of the drinking water system.
If you have more questions, email us at NorfolkReservoirs@norfolk.gov or call us at (757) 441-5678.
Yes. There is a "strip" of land around each reservoir that is owned by the city. It is not an easement. The amount of land owned varies with the reservoir because of when they were built, and how property was acquired. Generally, there is a 25-foot strip around Lake Whitehurst and Little Creek Reservoir, and a 10-foot strip around Lake Smith. Even with erosion, Norfolk still owns the property around the reservoirs.
For Lakes Lawson, Prince, Western Branch, and Burnt Mills, the amount varies. Check your property plat for an indication of what Norfolk owns. A professional survey may be required to determine the exact amount of property owned by the City of Norfolk.
No. Norfolk owns the property and should be treated as your backyard neighbor. Don’t do to city property what you wouldn’t do to your next-door neighbor.
All uses of the city's property requires permission. We are your backyard neighbor and should be treated the same as the next-door neighbor. We do not allow the removal of trees of any size, bushes, shrubs, or any other material without a permit. A formal landscape plan may be required if extensive work is planned. We would prefer that the property be left as a natural buffer to help protect the reservoir water quality. We understand that you may want a view of the water and will work with you. Contact us at (757) 441-5678 if you have any questions or concerns.
The short answer is "No". Remember, we are your backyard neighbor and a property owner. The property around the reservoir is not an easement, but owned by the city. However, we understand that you want to be able to see the reservoir and we can work with you to create a "view corridor". Selective removal of lower tree limbs and trimming of bushes may be allowed, with the proper permits.
What about trees that are leaning or already on the ground or in the water? We will meet with you to discuss your concerns.
To discuss your concerns and set up a meeting, call 757-441-5678.
No, trees are excellent habitat for the wildlife. While we don't allow limbs and woody debris to be placed on the shoreline for stabilization, trees that have naturally fallen into the lake do not pose a problem. These trees provide habitat for fish, birds, and turtles. Removal of trees of any size is prohibited without the proper permits. If you have a question about a tree in the lake or the safety of a tree on city of Norfolk property around the reservoirs, please call us at 757-441-5678.
Yes. The best method for protecting the shoreline from erosion is to leave the shoreline in a natural condition. Rooted plants are the best defense. Planting may be required to help reestablish the vegetation and this is the recommended option. However, we understand that some areas need extra protection. We have procedures in place that will allow for the construction of a rip-rap revetment.
A permit is required before any work can take place. All shoreline work will require a landscape plan and permit. Permit applications can be obtained by calling 757-441-5678 or from the internet.
Yes. A boat, canoe, or kayak can be placed into the reservoirs. Motors no larger than 10-horsepower may be used. If a boat with a larger motor is put in the reservoir, the larger motor must be disabled. All boats used on Norfolk reservoirs are required to have a Norfolk Boat Permit. For information on obtaining a permit, see the Boat Permit page.
Types of boats that are not allowed in the reservoirs are stand up paddleboards, sailboats, houseboats, inflatables, and personal water craft (ex: jet skis), surfboards and similar devices.
Boat Permits are valid for the calendar year (January 1 through December 31). There is no provision to pro-rate the fee.
No, we do not have a provision to pro-rate the cost. Permits are good January 1 through December 31.
Boat Permit locations
You can purchase the daily permits at the same locations as the annual permits.
The daily permit cost is $5.00 per day. Yes, the permit can be purchased in advance and will be dated for the day of use.
If you walk into the any of the facilities selling permits, you will be able to leave with your permit. If you send the application in by mail, please allow 10-14 days for processing and mail.
Lake Whitehurst, Lake Smith, Lake Lawson, Little Creek Reservoir, Western Branch Reservoir, Lake Prince, and Lake Burnt Mills. All access to Lake Wright is prohibited, including fishing from shore. Lake Wright at the Premium Outlets is not open to the public.
You can launch your boat from our public boat ramps. Additional information and the locations can be found at our Fishing and Boating page.
Yes. All boats in Norfolk’s reservoirs require a permit.