The Retreat at Love Creek Homeowners Association filed a lawsuit Aug. 28 in Delaware’s Court of Chancery to halt plans by Tidewater Environmental Services Inc. to pump wastewater and sewage from the new Kindleton development into the existing wastewater treatment plant and disposal fields on Retreat property.
In what could be a harbinger of future community-utility property disputes, residents of The Retreat at Love Creek signaled their intent to fight Tidewater's attempts to dispose of wastewater and sewage from a new development without gaining their community’s consent or reimbursing homeowners for the costs they incurred to build the system, said Bill Baydalla, a longtime Retreat resident and chairman of the homeowners association board-approved task force.
The complaint stems from a 2005 contractual agreement in which every purchaser of a lot in The Retreat at Love Creek, a development of 161 lots at the corner of Cedar Grove and Robinsonville roads near Lewes, was held responsible to pay the utility $9,800 for building a wastewater treatment plant and effluent disposal beds on community property. Over the course of the community’s buildout, residents paid a total of nearly $1.6 million to reimburse Tidewater for the construction costs of the sewage treatment system. As part of the agreement, Tidewater was granted the right to exclusively provide sewage disposal services to the Retreat community.
The exclusivity of the agreement was tested in 2013 when Tidewater submitted a conditional-use application to Sussex County to connect the Coastal Club development on Beaver Dam Road to The Retreat’s wastewater treatment facility and disposal fields, Baydalla said.
Sussex County Council denied the application, noting the easement granted to Tidewater was limited for services to the residents of The Retreat development only, and not for any other purposes.
However, earlier this year Tidewater officials ignored the 2005 contractual agreement and subsequent zoning commission ruling when it moved to connect 90 single-family homes in Kindleton, a development now under construction on Robinsonville Road, to The Retreat’s wastewater facility on its property. Tidewater officials took this action without notifying The Retreat or seeking its consent for the connection, Baydalla said.
“Tidewater's action completely ignores the contractual rights of residents at The Retreat at Love Creek,” Baydalla said. “If we don’t put a stop to this unlawful encroachment, Tidewater will continue to take advantage of us and other communities – especially given all the new developments in the area.”
The Retreat at Love Creek Homeowners Association Inc. is being represented by attorneys Chad Toms and Quinn Griffith of the Whiteford Taylor & Preston LLC law firm in Wilmington.