Couple gets second chance at home placement

Superior Court judge rules Sussex board should have allowed application
October 11, 2018

The owners of a modular home prohibited from placing it in a manufactured home park near Indian River Inlet may have a second chance.

During a Sept. 18, 2017 meeting, the Sussex County Board of Adjustment upheld the county planning and zoning director's rejection of an application for a special-use exception to place the home on a leased lot in South Shore Marina, a nonconforming manufactured home park near Bethany Beach.

On Aug. 29, Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley ruled that the board should have reversed the director's decision and allowed the applicants to file a special-use exception application. His decision was based in part on prior board action approving at least three applications for modular or stick-built homes in the park.

Bradley said the board stated they considered everything in county code when they approved the director's decision. “Despite of being put on notice of what it had done in the past, the board did not take any steps to determine why it had considered and approved virtually identical applications in the past. The board should have, at the very least, figured out why it had done so. The board's failure to do so was arbitrary and capricious,” he said.

Jason and Stacy Harshbarger purchased a $350,000 lot in the park adjacent to Delaware Seashore State Park, planning to put a factory-built modular home there. Sussex County Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell did not allow the couple to get a building permit or file for a special-use exception.

At the 2017 hearing, Cornwell told the board that county code is specific that only one modular or stick-built home is permitted in a manufactured home park, for the manager.

Jason Harshbarger argued that a precedent had been set with prior approvals of other housing types than manufactured homes in the park, which predates county zoning.

Tim Willard, the couple's attorney, said on Sept. 19 the Harshbargers filed a special-use exception application. “I'm hoping my clients can now build their home,” Willard said. However, he added, the county could appeal the ruling to Delaware Supreme Court.