On December 30, 2013 the New Castle County Superior Court issued a clarification of its previous written decision permitting development of approximately 38 acres of the 177 acre former Pike Creek Valley golf course. New Castle County had asked the Court to require that all of the land continue to be operated as a golf course, or at least that all 177 acres be preserved as open space, but on December 5, 2013 the Court ruled that development can proceed so long as at least 130 acres have been set aside for a “feasible” 18-hole golf course that need never be constructed or operated. The Court also ruled that the County cannot prevent construction of townhomes on 20 lots along Hogan Drive which were subdivided in 1981.
The Court’s recent “clarification” to its opinion did not change those favorable results for the owner, but did state that the acreage “set aside” for use as a golf course could not be used for any other purposes, including community open space, even if this acreage was never again actually used to support a golf course. For that reason the owner-developer, Pike Creek Recreational Services LLC, has decided to appeal the Court’s decision, according to Richard Beck, Esquire, of Morris James LLP.
“An active recreation plan for the community strikes us as a better use of 139 acres that the owner always intended to preserve, than an unusable ‘set aside’ exclusively for a golf course that will never be constructed.” He said that the plans as originally filed by his client in 2011 devoted much of the 139 acres of open space for “active recreation” such as walking trails, a community dock on a large existing pond, and sports, which would benefit the entire community.
New Castle County instituted litigation against Pike Creek Recreational Services, LLC in 2011, asking the Delaware Court of Chancery to make the owner operate an 18-hole golf course on its land forever, regardless of monetary loss, or at least be required to preserve all 177 acres of the former golf course as perpetual open space. After spending over $400,000 of taxpayer money, the County has not achieved either of these objectives, according to Beck. He declined to speculate as to how much more taxpayer money the County would spend in opposing the appeal. However, Beck stated that, in addition to the expenditure of legal fees, the County has lost the benefit of jobs and revenues from impact fees, transfer taxes, property taxes and school taxes that would have been generated if his client’s plans had not been opposed. “Since most existing homes on the old golf course will continue to overlook open space under the Terraces Plan, and over 78% of the former golf course is planned for walkable, usable open space, its staggering how much of the County’s treasure has been spent opposing development for the benefit of so few,” said Beck.