Virginia Beach nonprofit aimed at teaching water activities to the disabled is now in jeopardy

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A nonprofit organization that helps disabled individuals enjoy the thrills of water sports is now facing its own challenges.

“I think it’s horrible,” said Joseph Forbes.

Forbes’ 12-year-old son Nicholas is a Triplegic with Cerebral palsy. For two years, the family has taken part in the free events hosted by Virginia Beach Adaptive Watersports. But now, the volunteer-run organization is in jeopardy.

“It’s fun and it brings joy to him and now they’re going to take it away?” Forbes said. “It’s just very heartbreaking.”

Since the 1980s, the volunteer-run organization has helped people with disabilities learn or re-learn how to water ski and kayak on Witchduck Lake.

Co-founder Dallas Norman owns a small peninsula along the water, which he uses as a dock for participants. A small ski club also utilizes the property, he said.

But come this summer, Norman received three zoning violations, issued as misdemeanors, for apparently failing to have the proper permits.

A city spokesperson said he received a notice of violation but continued operating on the private lake. The notice was sent as nearby residents were reportedly complaining about the group’s activity.

“None of the residents are trying to shut a program like that down, that’s not the point,” one resident said, asking not to be identified. “The point is, the lake is just too small [the program has] grown as far as the amount of people that attend.”

He and another unidentified resident stated that the wake created by the activity prompts property erosion concerns. Only Norman is apparently authorized to use a motorized boat.

“It’s loud, it becomes a nuisance,” said a resident who lives along the water. “I like to kayak and go out on the water, I can’t do that if there’s a lot of operating vehicles… it becomes an issue of how to legally and best use the lake for all residents in a safe and… fair manner.”

That resident stated there have been boats on the water “no less than 25 to 30 days” this year, docking from Norman’s property.

But Norman told 10 On Your Side that he only holds about eight VBAW events each season, including one for Warrior Week.

“We want to be good neighbors, we do.” he said.

“Sometimes there’s a bunch of us, but we’re not very loud and this is such a great group,” said Christen Ball, a participant who was born with Spina bifida. “We’re just out here trying to do adaptive things that we never thought possible.”

Damon Hayward, another participant who was born with Spinda bifida, echoed that sentiment.

“A lot of people in the disabled community often don’t get out a lot,” he said. “So this inspires people… this is actually giving a lot of people a lot of self-esteem.”

Several supporters told 10 On Your Side they plan to attend Norman’s court hearing on Oct. 10. He plans to represent himself.

If he loses the case, Norman told 10 On Your Side he will appeal. If it comes down to it, he will consider getting the permits needed to operate.

Norman told 10 On Your Side he had applied for a conditional use permit this year, when he intended to launch a summer camp.

Ultimately, however, he withdrew the application after citizens launched a petition, and he grew concerned over the costs that would have been associated with the plan.