Milton board reverses decision on Chestnut Street house

Homeowner allowed to rent as two units
November 27, 2020

Milton Board of Adjustment unanimously voted Nov. 16 to reverse the town project manager’s decision, and concurred with the view of a Chestnut Street property owner that his home consists of two dwelling units.

The board found that James Welu, owner of 202 Chestnut St., could continue his nonconforming use status for the property, after Project Coordinator Tom Quass ruled that the house could only be used as a single-family residence. 

Welu had argued that the house was a two-family home and was used as such prior to the town’s zoning code being enacted in 1987. While multifamily dwellings are not allowed in an R-1 residentially zoned area, the house was a legal nonconforming use. The property had been abandoned in 2016 until Welu bought it in 2018 and renovated it. He argued that the house was clearly intended as a two-family residence because it had separate entrances, laundry areas, kitchens and bathrooms, and that the nonconforming use had been grandfathered in. After renovating the house, Welu began renting it out.

Quass and town officials ruled that the house was a single-family residence after Welu renovated, and because more than a year had gone by between when Welu bought it and began using it, the grandfathered status lapsed. 

After the board listened to four-plus hours of testimony and debate Oct. 27, a decision was put off until Nov. 16, so the board would have time to review transcripts of the testimony. When it reconvened Nov. 16, the board listened to further debate over the use of the property and whether the intent had always been that the home was a two-family residence. 

The board found no evidence saying that the home had ever been used as anything but a legal nonconforming residence and overturned Quass’s decision. The end result is Welu would be able to use the property as two separate units, and could rent them out as such. 

The town, and anyone else aggrieved by the decision, has a 30-day appeal period to Delaware Superior Court if they wish to pursue the matter further. 

The board will file a written decision with the town that will be available to the public via Freedom of Information Act request.


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