What can one say about a Delaware Chancery Court opinion in a consolidated New Castle County action to enforce private restrictive covenants and developer's action to compel county review of development plans that was issued one day, corrected the next, then withdrawn and re-issued with clarifications three and a half months later by a specially-appointed Vice Chancellor? A case that involves fifty-year-old and forty-six-year-old "private master plans," the current Unified Development Code "restrictive change statute" (§40.31.130), a plethora of successively-revised record development plans, at least two successive rezonings, another thirty year old Declaration of Covenants, and a series of county council resolutions? Not to mention the interpretation of three previous Delaware court decisions involving the same land? Does the December 30, 2013 opinion in New Castle County v. Pike Creek Recreational Services, C.A. No. 5969-JW, considering cross-motions for summary judgment deal with facts so complex that it is useless in providing guidance beyond the case at hand?
Not at all. The opinion is a treasure trove of tasty tidbits of Delaware real estate law.
The first tidbit: the Chancery Court reiterated the Delaware Supreme Court ruling that a decision of whether proposed plans for Pike Creek conformed to a "master plan" created by private covenants should be left to the courts, not the New Castle County Planning Board. New Castle County v. Richeson, 347 A.2d 135 (Del. 1975). Thus, County Council Resolution 10-217 directed to the Department of Land Use stating that the developer's development plan for homes violated the golf course required in the master plan was an invalid attempt to interpret the master plan. The master plan (as amended) was binding on the developer as a successor owner even though it was not recorded, because its language showed intent to run with the land and the developer had actual notice of it.