Judge rules in favor of Capano home

Neighbors argued house would block ocean views
August 26, 2019

A Delaware Court of Chancery judge has ruled that a home being built by Louis Capano III does not violate restrictive covenants of the Draper Subdivision south of Rehoboth Beach. 

Capano’s neighbors had fought in court over Capano’s proposed plans for his home because the planned home would block their views of the ocean. 

According to court documents, Capano’s father, Louis Capano Jr., purchased the lot on East Lake Drive in Rehoboth for him in 2002. Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control had already established a line where oceanside homeowners can build. However, residents of Draper Subdivision had informally agreed to make the oceanside setbacks even more restrictive to preserve their ocean views. In some cases, this meant the setback was 30 feet landward of the DNREC line.

Court documents say Draper Subdivision residents had tried to impose these restrictions in the subdivision’s restrictive covenants but failed three times to secure enough support to get them in before giving up. When Capano sought to build a home, these informal limitations were not part of the subdivision’s covenants. 

When Capano brought his plans before the subdivision’s architectural review committee, he was rejected because the plans did not meet the community’s informal arrangement on oceanside setbacks. The committee reasoned that a 30-foot oceanside setback was essential to preserving their views. However, court documents say these setbacks would reduce the buildable land on Capano’s lot by 20 percent.

Attempts at compromise failed, and Capano sued the committee and its members in Court of Chancery. A two-day trial was held in January, but it was not until Aug. 20 that Judge Kathleen McCormick released her ruling in Capano’s favor.

Speaking of the committee members, McCormick said, “They provided no evidence that when the Draper Subdivision was first recorded there existed a common plan of development that included additional setbacks from the DNREC line, much less the specific 30-foot oceanside setback for the plaintiff’s lot that the defendants seek to enforce.”

The Draper Subdivision is a group of nine oceanfront lots between Silver Lake and the Atlantic Ocean. The subdivision was established in 1995, and the original covenants adopted the DNREC line as the oceanside setback line.

In 1996, according to court documents, Tom Gaspard, one of the defendants in the case, purchased a lot in the subdivision. His neighbors had built their homes 30 feet back from the DNREC line, in order to maintain the ocean views. 

The Capanos became involved in the subdivision in 2002, when Louis Capano Jr. purchased a lot from Grotto Pizza founder Dominick Pulieri. Capano Jr. sold the lot to his son, who first proposed plans to build on it in late 2017. The architectural review committee rejected these plans due to concerns about blocking the site lines on the ocean side, and then later rejected a second set of plans submitted by Capano. 

McCormick ruled that Capano’s plans comply with the subdivision covenants, and that the committee has no legal basis to deny his plans. McCormick said Capano is also entitled to attorney costs and fees. 


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