ODU professor sues Norfolk council over Talbot Hall

WAVY/Aaron Kurtz

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The fight over a historic house has taken a nasty turn — a woman is suing Norfolk City Council members, saying they hid the rezoning process of Talbot Hall from the public.

Joyce Hoffmann filed the legal complaint last Friday. She claims council didn’t include the public in its decision making about the preservation of a 210-year-old manor home.

“I think we need as much transparency as possible in government,” said Mary Novak, who lives near the old house.

Document: Joyce Hoffman lawsuit

City council voted to rezone back in June, which will allow a developer to build more than a dozen homes on the prime waterfront property along the Lafayette River, near DePaul Medical Center. But Hoffmann, an ODU professor, claims that the decision came about after what she termed “secret discussions.”

Her lawsuit goes on to say, “these illegal deliberations took place during at least two closed-door sessions.” Hoffman contends the discussions should have taken place in public.

And Novak concurs: “I think the meeting should be held with the community present. I don’t think that decisions that affect the public should be made in private by city council.”

Photos: Norfolk’s Talbot Hall

City Attorney Benard Pishko defended the council’s actions and told 10 On Your Side by telephone that “Norfolk council passed zoning to assure the preservation of Talbot Hall.”

In her legal complaint, Hoffmann asks the court to declare  the council’s actions invalid, have the council hold a public discussion on Talbot Hall and impose a $500 fine on each council member.

Novak opposes the rezoning of the historic home on the Lafayette River. She feels the development of the property is a bad investment.

“I think it’s a beautiful piece of property,” Novak said. “I think it should be open. My children and their friends played down there. I think it should be open to everyone to come and enjoy the land. It’s beautiful.”

So far, no date has been set for a hearing on this legal issue.

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