Cape Gazette

Lawsuit is delaying Junction-Breakwater work

Trail extension put on hold until case is settled
By Ron MacArthur | Sep 07, 2013
Photo by: Ron MacArthur A section of the Junction and Breakwater Trail runs through the Hawkseye community.

A lawsuit is still holding up trail work in the Lewes area.

Two Breakwater Estates homeowners filed suit against the Delaware Department of Transportation this past spring claiming an easement for part of an extension of the Junction and Breakwater Trail along the border of their property did not legally exist. State officials contend all easements were secured and had scheduled work to begin in the spring. Once the lawsuit was filed, money for the project was shifted to other trail projects.

The extension would connect Gills Neck Road with Kings Highway and Freeman Highway in Lewes running along the border of Breakwater Estates.

DelDOT Deputy Attorney General Fritz Schranck said the state has answered the complaint in Court of Chancery and filed for discovery on the part of the plaintiffs. “We are not aware of any additional activity on their part regarding the lawsuit,” said DelDOT spokesman Geoff Sundstrom.

Andrew Taylor, the plaintiff's attorney, said he is in the discovery phase of the litigation with the state. No trial date has been set.

“The proposed 15-foot wide public access easement was never granted or recorded,” the lawsuit alleges. “In the response from the state to our lawsuit, they did not indicate a clear legal basis for an easement for a bike trail in Breakwater,” Taylor said.

The extension is part of a master plan to develop a trail loop connecting resort towns and eventually intersecting with the proposed Georgetown-to-Lewes trail. Another extension is planned to connect Gordon's Pond with Herring Point within Cape Henlopen State Park.

State planners have been working on the extension for several years in an effort to get bicycle and pedestrian traffic off Gills Neck Road. Although not part of the Junction and Breakwater Trail, the road is heavily used by cyclists, runners and walkers as a link to connect Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.

Residents along Gills Neck Road have expressed concerns because the narrow road has no shoulders with a blind, S-curve, presenting serious safety hazards.

The plaintiffs, Steven Napiecek and Robin Zoltek, wanted all work stopped on the project until the matter could be adjudicated.


This is the section of Gills Neck Road where the Junction and Breakwater Trail would cross over to create an extension into Lewes. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Comments (2)
Posted by: Joseph Tomlinson | Sep 08, 2013 08:00

It is very difficult to understand how the plaintiffs did not know about the plans for the trail at the time of their Breakwater purchase. The planning for the well documented extension has been in the works for years and I believe is outlined in the 2005 Lewes Planning document? The link to the article below references the extension through Breakwater in 2012.  Schell Brothers were very upfront about the trail plans when my wife and I looked at Breakwater. Had the plaintiffs completed a little due diligence prior to purchase maybe they could have selected a lot away from the planned trail and we would all be benefitting from the what will be a significant community resource.

Posted by: Mary Jo Porreca | Sep 08, 2013 14:15

Many commenters are being very unfair in their remarks, probably due to the fact that the article itself is unbalanced.  The news article centering on the lawsuit comes down to-- a matter of law.  Either DelDot has recorded an official easement, or it hasn’t.  THAT’S what the Gazette should have honed in on.  If DelDot has such documentation officially on file, it is public record and the media should request a copy for publication.  Furthermore, in the name of comprehensive, balanced/unbiased reporting, in addition to detailing the dangers of bicycle traffic on Gills Neck Road, the Gazette should have detailed the plat maps of the backyards in question.  Several of the backyards that would be combined with the proposed trail aren’t much more than 15 feet deep as it is.  Here’s the question that a balanced report should have included:  “IF no official easement has been recorded, what are the alternatives?”  Here’s one:  tweak the plans and shift the trail to the undeveloped parcel behind Breakwater.  There’s plenty of room there, should those influential and powerful landowners choose to (in the words of another commentator) “suck it up”.

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