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Update

Delaware Supreme Court rules in favor of Harbeson garage

Charles Williams anticipates end of 6-year battle with neighbors
Charles Williams’ neighbors have waged a 6-year legal fight against him and his Harbeson garage. On June 30, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in his favor. MELISSA STEELE PHOTO
June 30, 2017

Charles Williams started his Fourth of July celebration early, on June 30.

After six years of prolonged legal wrangling and court battles with his neighbors over his Harbeson garage, he relished the Delaware Supreme Court's decision in his favor.

“It's a relief,” he said. “I want to put it in the rear-view mirror.”

The Delaware Supreme Court took 16 days to decide the matter. On June 30, Chief Justice Leo Strine and Justices Karen Valihura and James T. Vaughn Jr. affirmed the Court of Chancery decision in favor of Williams and his garage.

“The court having considered this matter on the briefs filed by the parties has determined that the final judgment of the Court of Chancery should be affirmed on the basis of and for the reasons assigned by the Court of Chancery in its memorandum opinion dated November 4, 2016,” the two-sentence order reads.

Williams' neighbors, Margaret Foulke and Carol and John Kane, have fought for years against Williams' garage, which they say was built illegally and against county code.

Carol Kane declined to comment about the Delaware Supreme Court decision or whether the neighbors would appeal the court's decision.

Long battle

Nestled off Martin Farm Road in Harbeson at the end of a 275-foot driveway known as Summer Place Lane, Williams' home was bought in 1999 and the 5-acre parcel was subdivided in 2007. Foulke and her partner, George Defrehn, who live next door, bought two parcels.

With proceeds from the sale, Williams – a double amputee – built a four-car garage nearly 2,000 square feet with a 600-square-foot lean-to addition.

Chancery Court Judge Sam Glasscock referred to it as an “auto tinkerer's Taj Mahal” decorated with ornamental signs, an old phone booth, an unoperational traffic light and a nonfunctioning Pepsi machine.

“Flush with cash from the sale of the front and rear lots, Williams pursued a long-held wish: owning a shop where he could pursue his hobby of working on cars,” Glasscock wrote in his 2016 opinion.

Glasscock determined that Williams is allowed to work on cars with his friends – the same conclusion Sussex County officials came to following dozens of filings and complaints filed by the Kanes, Foulke and Foulke's nephew, Robert Walker Jr., who had built a house on one of the lots Williams sold to Foulke.

Walker now rents out the home; he was a plaintiff in the Chancery Court case, but not the Delaware Supreme Court appeal.

Glasscock said that Williams and Walker must work out details of speed bumps or speed limit signs on the driveway that their properties share. Walker declined to comment after the Chancery Court opinion and said he would have no further comment on the case.

Story goes viral

News of Williams' garage battle spread fast across car enthusiast websites after the Cape Gazette published its first story in October 2016. More than 1 million people viewed a video that went with the story.

A Gofundme account created after the 2016 article raised about $58,000 to help defray legal costs. Williams said after taxes and fees, it helped cover nearly $40,000 he spent on legal fees.

He said he thanks everyone for their support during his ordeal.

“It appears that justice has finally been served,” he said. “What a great time to get the decision.”

The original story and video can be found at http://www.capegazette.com/article/neighbors-sue-stop-auto-repairs-harbeson-home/114001.