Dewey Beach Enterprises Wins Appeal: Supreme Court says residential requirements do not apply to mixed use structures in Dewey
In a landmark opinion issued today, Friday June 30, the Supreme Court of Delaware declared Dewey Beach Enterprises the victor in a zoning dispute with the Town of Dewey Beach that has spanned nearly three years. Reversing the judgment of the Superior Court, Chief Justice Steele, Justice Holland and Justice Berger concluded that Dewey Beach Zoning Code residential lot size requirements do not apply to mixed use structures.
The decision from Delaware’s highest court brings to rest arguments regarding phase one of a three-phase redevelopment plan for the property known as “Ruddertowne.” Dewey Building Official Bill Mears and former Town Solicitor John Brady initially found that the plan complied with all applicable zoning code requirements. Amid suggestions of backdoor dealings and improper actions by town commissioners and others, Brady reversed his position and, in a letter sent Christmas Eve, 2007, told Dewey Beach Enterprises (“DBE”) that it would not receive a building permit because its plan did not satisfy minimum lot area requirements for residential multiunit structures.
The town’s Board of Adjustment upheld the denial of DBE’s building permit for a 35-foot-high structure on July 7, 2008 and the Superior Court affirmed the board on July 30, 2009.
The Supreme Court opinion comes as no surprise to many who attended oral argument in Dover on June 2. Attendees witnessed Max Walton, attorney for the Dewey Beach Board of Adjustment, visibly shaken by questions and comments from the justices.
Similarly, those who attended the many hearings and town council meetings throughout the years that addressed the issues are not surprised by reasons given by the Court for its decision. They are the same reasons repeatedly presented to the town by DBE attorneys and other representatives:
Under the Dewey Beach Zoning Code, mixed use structures are not multi-family dwellings.
Under the Dewey Beach Zoning Code, mixed use structures are not residential multiunit structures.
Finally, to the extent that there is any doubt as to the correct interpretation of any provision of the Dewey Beach Zoning Code, under Delaware law that doubt must be resolved in favor of the landowner.
DBE President Thomas Harvey, III, says he is grateful for the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, and looks forward to commencing work on the Ruddertowne redevelopment project.
“We now hope that the out-of-state interests who have been holding the Town of Dewey Beach hostage will allow Delawareans to get back to work with the 1,500 jobs that this One Hundred Million Dollar project will create. We at DBE have a long history of following the rules. When we encounter a group that refuses to follow the rules, we will not sit idly by and watch the system and due process be violated,” Harvey said.
“This was a matter between right and wrong, and the decision issued by the Supreme Court today confirms that Dewey Beach Enterprises was right all along,” Harvey concluded.
Alternatively, as more succinctly appeared on the outdoor sign to Ruddertowne’s Lighthouse, “How ’bout them apples!”