New Castle County and the Pike Creek Valley Civic have fought a long battle to preserve the closed Pike Creek Golf Course as open space free from development, but the battle has not yet reached a final conclusion.
The government and civic group have been waiting for a final decision in Delaware Superior Court, where the case was reassigned from Judge John A. Parkins Jr. to Judge Paul R. Wallace.
New Castle County had filed suit to prevent development of the golf course. County attorneys argued that two deed restrictions from 1964 and 1969 guaranteed that the golf course would remain open space for perpetuity as part of Pike Creek's master plan.
Parkins ruled from the bench in autumn 2012 that Pike Creek Recreational Services LLC, a subsidiary of Onyx, could not develop 288 homes on the bulk of Pike Creek Golf Course. That amounts to 177 acres.
The developer scored a limited victory when Parkins also ruled the Onyx group may proceed with the construction of 20 homes on Hogan Drive.
However, the bottom line from a legal standpoint was that there was never a written decision, giving Pike Creek a verbal victory, but not a written opinion.
Land use attorney Rich Abbott said he had known Wallace since he first started practicing law out of law school and he has known him to be an intelligent, thoughtful jurist.
Abbott, a Hockessin lawyer, said that Wallace made it clear at the April 4 conference he held on the case that he was not looking to change any ruling made by Parkins and not reinvent the wheel.
"The key was that we would not start at the beginning," Abbott said.
In addition Wallace did not have a big case load, he said.
Pike Creek Valley Civic League Jeff Peters said the Save Pike Creek Committee was formed several years with a legal fund to address the development proposal for Pike Creek Golf Course. That enabled him to hire Abbott to debrief the civic league periodically on the development.
Councilman Timothy Sheldon (D-Pike Creek) and Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick (R-Hockessin said the key to the victory with regard to the bulk of the Pike Creek Golf Course was a note on the 1964, signed deed restriction that stated 177 acres of the golf course was to remain as open space.
There was another document, unsigned in 1969, that also talked about open space, Kilpatrick and Sheldon said.
As for Hogan Drive, Sheldon said he remained optimist that would remain open as well, but the developer was pushing the issue in order to make some kind of profit off the land.
Pike Creek Golf Course was moved from Sheldon's district to Kilpatrick's district, where some of her constituents already abutted the golf course before reapportionment.
Page 2 of 2 - Sheldon and Kilpatrick said all Pike Creek could do was wait on the written opinion – the ruling of law.
In the meantime, the New Castle County Council members urged Pike Creek residents to not trespass upon the golf course so as to not give the opposing side any ammunition.
"You're not supposed to be on the property," Sheldon said. "People from Pike Creek have been arrested [for trespassing]."
Toward the end of the discussion, PCVCL member Bob Jones said the No. 1 goal was to preserve the golf course as open space. The appearance of the golf could be worried about later.
In addition, Bill Shahan, from the New Castle County executive's office, received an ovation from the crown when he pledged the Gordon administration's support for preserving the golf course as open space.