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Henlopen Acres denies bridle path encroachment

Canal property owners argue driveway accidentally too big should be allowed
November 18, 2019

Story Location:
57 Tidewaters
Henlopen Acres  Delaware  19971
United States

Henlopen Acres commissioners voted Nov. 8 to deny a request by property owners at 57 Tidewaters to allow a driveway to encroach on a town bridle path.

Town Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said, this past summer property owners Bob and Debbie Reed built a new home, and contrary to the plan submitted to the town, the driveway along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal side of the house was built approximately two feet deep and 25 feet wide into the bridle path that runs along the canal behind their home. As a result of this violation, he said in an email following the meeting, the town declined to issue a certificate of occupancy for the structure.

During the Henlopen Acres organizational meeting Sept. 6, Bob Reed said the driveway was accidentally placed in the bridle path. He then laid out a case as to why the accident should be allowed to stay. He said driveways are typically placed in setbacks, either the front or side, so a rear bridle path should be treated the same way.

Reed said he didn’t believe the code explicitly states a driveway cannot be in the bridle path. He said his research of property maps from before Henlopen Acres was incorporated shows there is no mention of the Brightwater bridle path along the canal.

Reed also referenced the town’s zoning code, which says no improvements can be made to the bridle path, but said he doesn’t think a driveway counts as an improvement.

Reed argued his driveway being in the bridle path doesn’t interfere with the town’s ability to use or access it, and that as a homeowner, his right to use that portion of land outweighs the town’s need to access it.

In his email following the denial, Mandalas said he and town commissioners carefully considered the Reeds arguments, alleged justifications and all of the supporting material, but ultimately found them to be without merit.

In an email Nov. 11, Mayor Joni Reich said the commissioners decided the town ordinance is very clear in prohibiting improvements on the bridle path. Additionally, she said the driveway was erected there without prior disclosure to the town in the building permit application and was not approved by the town. 

Reich said she had hoped the matter would be resolved differently.

“I feel this is a very regrettable situation, as the Reeds have been long-standing residents and neighbors who have contributed greatly to the town through their service on various boards,” said Reich. “They have built a beautiful new home in the Acres, and it was our sincere hope that we could resolve this matter through discussions that have occurred since they were first cited in June.”

In addition to denying the encroachment request, Mandalas said the commissioners voted to issue a Notice of Violation and Order of Removal requiring that the driveway encroachment be removed. The owner must comply with the order, he said, or the town anticipates instituting a legal action to enforce the order.

When asked for comment Nov. 13, Debbie Reed said they did not have one.