WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Delaware Supreme Court rebukes DelDOT in favor of elderly couple

Ruling in a situation reminiscent of Wilmington's imminent domain battle (although obviously different circumstances), Delaware Supreme Court Justices ruled against DelDOT and in favor of an elderly couple near Middletown.

The state Supreme Court ordered DelDOT to return about one-and-a-half acres of land near Middletown that DelDOT had condemned for the Route 301 project. The Justices characterized a Superior Court ruling giving the state possession of the farmland "clearly erroneous". That's quite a rebuke of both DelDOT and the lower court in favor of Jack and Mary Ann Lawson.

Justices held DelDOT is compelled to make "every reasonable effort" to acquire land through negotiation rather than condemnation.

DelDOT's plans for transforming U.S. 301 into a new toll road extending from the Delaware/Maryland state line west of Middletown to the Delaware Route 1 Roth Bridge have hit several obstacles.

DelDOT offered just over 131-thousand dollars for the one-and-a-half acres of the Lawsons' land. It had dismissed arguments that carving off that piece of land undercut the value of the remaining land. DelDOT will now have to offer a higher price for that chunk of land... which it still wants.

DelDOT's planned relocated entrance to a 12-foot-wide driveway across a proposed stormwater management pond would have ruled out commercial development of the property - to the detriment of the Lawsons - even though the entire property had been zoned for commercial use. (Commercial entrances must be nearly two times as wide -- 22 feet.)

The couple's attorney, Rich Abbott, sees two sets of rules: One for wealthy landowners, and another for landowners of more modest means.

Hear my interviews about this story with a DelDOT representative and with attorney Rich Abbott...

Audio Here

Posted at 7:45am on July 24, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jul 24, 2013 8:26am
Finally a victory for the little guy. Great story, thanks Allan for sharing it.

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 5:36pm
I'll sell them my place for $131,000!

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