Village Centre lawsuit continues

Developers want to build a shopping center on this parcel along Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road across from Cape Henlopen High School. BY RON MACARTHUR
August 5, 2014

There appears to be no immediate end in sight for a lawsuit involving the proposed Townsend Village Centre. Developer L.T. Associates' request for a change to commercial zoning for a 46-acre parcel along Kings Highway for the shopping center was denied Jan. 19, 2010. The proposed complex would provide 320,000 square feet of retail space.

After Sussex County Council denied a zoning change application in early 2010, L.T. Associates filed a lawsuit against council and Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach, individually. First filed in Chancery Court, the lawsuit eventually ended up in federal U.S. District Court. L.T. Associates claims federal court has jurisdiction because the developers’ constitutional rights were violated.

Deaver was named individually, according to the lawsuit, because she “actively undertook to oppose, to encourage opposition to, and to seek denial of the application” when she was supposed to be impartial. The lawsuit contends that Deaver should have recused herself from the public hearing and vote.

On July 18, defendant Sussex County and plaintiff L.T. Associates both filed motions for summary judgement. Attorneys from both sides were scheduled to take part in a July 28 teleconference with Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge, according to court records.

In Sussex County's brief, attorney Vince Robertson said the decision to deny a change to commercial zoning for the parcel was based on substantial evidence contained in the public record and there was no mandate for commercial zoning on the property. In addition, he said, there was no evidence Deaver acted improperly.

L.T. Associates attorney Joseph Schoell is asking the court to invalidate and rescind county council's vote to deny the application and to direct council to approve the application, paving the way for the Townsend Village Centre.





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