Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 6, 2016

DE Supreme Court upholds Board’s Order for Change of Use Certificate

Henry and Mary Lou Black and Blackball Properties, LLC., challenged the Department of Land Use’s decision to grant a change of use certificate to neighboring property owners, Gary Staffieri and Adria Charles–Staffieri The Staffieris had rented out the property for use as office space for approximately ten years before deciding to open an automobile detailing shop on the premises, which required them to obtain a change of use certificate from the Department. When the Staffieris first received their certificate from the Department, the Blacks successfully appealed and the Board reversed the Department’s decision. The Staffieris then reapplied, the Department again issued their certificate, and the Board affirmed the Department’s decision. The Blacks were unable to appeal the Board’s decision to a reviewing court because the General Assembly chose not to provide that right to parties aggrieved by a Board decision. The Blacks therefore sought review through a petition for a writ of certiorari filed in the Superior Court. After granting the writ to bring up the record, the Superior Court affirmed the Board.

In their petition for a writ of certiorari, the Blacks asserted that the Staffieris have no right to use the 14 shared spots in the Shared Parking Area. The Blacks contended that there were not enough spaces available in the Shared Parking Area to support their own existing parking needs, although their deficiency had been considered grandfathered. Because the Staffieris sought to use their property in a new way, the Blacks argued the shared spots could count toward their requirement. However, because this case was on certiorari rather than direct appeal, the court could only consider whether there was a manifest error of law on the face of the record. Here, because the Court of Chancery’s ruling found that the Staffieris had equal legal right to 14 spots with their neighbors, plus at least one spot on their own property, the court found it impossible to find any manifest error on the face of the record in the Board’s decision that the Staffieris had access to at least four parking spaces. The Board appeared to have carefully consider the facts about the effect of the proposed use on the community in evaluating whether the Staffieris’ application should be granted. Accordingly, the Superior Court’s judgment affirming the Board’s decision was upheld.

Black v New Castle County Board of License, 117 A. 3d 1027 (DE 6/29/2015)

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