EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an update to an article we posted on October 15th. Click HERE to see the original article
A Chancery Court judge has denied all claims against a Harbeson man whose neighbors say he is operating an illegal car repair shop.
In an opinion released Nov. 4, Chancery Court Judge Sam Glasscock addressed what he referred to as “officious intermeddling” by neighbors of Charles Williams who filed suit asking that Williams’ garage be torn down because of violations with county and building codes.
In the judge’s latest opinion, he denied plaintiff’s request to tear down the garage and affirmed, as the judge did in a previous opinion, that Williams can use his garage for his auto repair hobby. The judge also said Williams is allowed to have ornamental signs on his property and denied the request by plaintiffs Robert Walker Jr., Margaret Foulke and John and Carol Kane for payment of their legal fees associated with the lawsuit.
The three sued Williams in 2014 saying Williams was operating a car repair shop out of his home, causing noise, heavy traffic and unpleasant odors that affected their way of life. They contended the garage was illegal and larger than Sussex County code allowed – violation of building codes, zoning codes and land-use policy.
Judge Glasscock said Delaware state code gives Sussex County authority on zoning and the county, in turn, hires a building inspector to determine whether building codes have been enforced. While acknowledging that the ceiling trusses or floor slope of Williams garage may not be up to code, Glasscock said the plaintiffs failed to prove how the garage has injured them. He also said state statute leaves enforcement of building codes to a county director of assessment. “I conclude no statutory standing exists with respect to enforcement of the building code as adopted by Sussex County,” he wrote. “To find, as the plaintiffs argue, that all property owners in Sussex County have standing to enforce the building code would, I fear, result in inefficient and pernicious litigation.”