NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A day after word began to spread that “Floatopia” may be headed to Norfolk, one council member is warning that if it’s anything like Virginia Beach’s version, “we do not want it.”
Councilman Tommy Smigiel, who represents the Ocean View community, said he began receiving community concerns on Thursday. An event page on Facebook had been created inviting people to attend a float filled beach bash on July 4th in Ocean View.
“A lot of constituents in Ocean View saying please do not let this happen in our community. We do not want it!” Smigiel said.
An event by the same name made national news on Memorial Day, when 10 tons of trash was left behind on Ocean Park Beach in Virginia Beach. Neighbors have since scolded city leaders for not doing more to prevent the illegal parking, drug activity, public urination and drunk driving they said they also had to endure.
“It became an embarrassment across the world,” Smigiel said. “Ocean View has had a stigma on it unfortunately and we have tried so hard for the last five years to bring up that reputation … we don’t want to risk that.”
Smigiel said if the event will take place, it will have to be permitted.
Reached by phone Thursday, Stephen Hobbs, who came forward as one of the organizers for the previous Floatopia, said the city had sent him the application.
“I don’t want to be responsible for a person coming to a public beach,” Hobbs said. “I’m going to attend, I’m going to the beach that day, but at this point I don’t plan on filling out a form to do it.”
Hobbs questioned why a permit would be necessary. In Virginia Beach city leaders have told upset community members that a permit can’t be required because beaches are public.
Smigiel on the other hand points to a section of Norfolk’s code that requires permits for private use of a recreation area “if the activity detracts from the public use of a park.”
It is $25 to apply and Smigiel said it would allow the city services to be coordinated to help the organizer. The penalty for holding an event without one is up to 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, according to the code.
“The city has the right to protect its community and beaches,” Smigiel said. “If (Hobbs) doesn’t have (a permit), we will make sure it’s enforced.”
As of Friday night, the Facebook event post had disappeared. Hobbs was not reachable for comment.