Lawsuit filed over wooden walkway crossing dune

Henlopen Acres Beach Club neighbor argues club doesn’t have right to cut off beach access
September 8, 2023

Story Location:
Henlopen Acres Beach Club
28 Dune Way
Henlopen Acres, DE 19971
United States

A wooden-plank walkway crossing a dune is at the center of a dispute between Henlopen Acres Beach Club and its neighbors to the north.

According to a petition filed in the Court of Chancery in March, John and April Delaney are seeking to establish ownership of a walkway running directly from their residence at 2 Ocean Drive to the beach through adverse possession, acquiescence or a prescriptive easement.

The Delaneys purchased the property in 2010. John Delaney is a businessman and was a U.S. representative for Maryland's 6th District from 2013 to 2019. He also ran for president in the 2020 election.

The Delaney property is basically a right triangle. The hypotenuse of the triangle is the property line shared with the Henlopen Acres Beach Club. The club’s property line extends beyond the farthest point east of the Delaney property, which means while the Delany property is oceanfront, it doesn’t have direct access to the beach.

Representing the Delaneys is Wilmington-based attorney Thomas Hanson. He says the walkway from the Delaneys’ house has been in continuous use since the 1950s. Despite the plaintiffs and the previous property owners having continuously used and maintained the walkway for more than 60 years, the beach club has unilaterally decided to fill the existing gap in the sand fence, making it clear the existing route to the beach should no longer be used, said Hanson.

Hanson argues because the walkway has been maintained by the Delaneys and the previous owners for at least 20 years, the club relinquished its exclusive possession of the walkway.

Representing the Henlopen Acres Beach Club is Newark-based attorney Max Walton. In his response, submitted April 5, he denies the walkway has been in continuous and open use since the 1950s. The Delaneys unlawfully extended the walkway onto the club’s property long after the 1950s, he said.

Walton filed a counterclaim saying the beach club has maintained the entirety of its property since 1958. He also says the club and the North Shores community, which owns the land immediately north of the Delaney property, have entered into agreements since at least 1999 to maintain the sand and dune area immediately adjacent to the boundary line. The club’s boundary line that extends beyond the Delaney property abuts the North Shores property line.

As part of this maintenance, among other things, the beach club and North Shores have built up and replenished sand dunes, installed signage and property line markers, planted vegetation and installed fencing.

The club discovered the walkway in March 2021 and requested its removal, said Walton. Henlopen Acres Beach Club seeks a declaration from the court that it’s the sole and exclusive owner of the entire parcel, said Walton.

Hanson could not be reached for further comment.

Walton said he could not comment beyond what was in his response to the original complaint without the permission of the club.

The case has been assigned to Vice Chancellor Nathan A. Cook. As of press deadline Aug. 31, no decision has been issued.


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