Club receives DuPont's permission

By Lynn R. Parks

A nearly three-year battle between the Seaford Golf and Country Club and the DuPont Co. is over. DuPont has agreed to allow the country club to sell land at the southeast corner of its golf course. "We are ecstatic," said Charles Butler, president of the country club board of directors. "This is what we have wanted all along. Now, we can sell that piece of property." As a condition to its agreement, DuPont is requiring that anyone who buys the land acknowledge that the Koch nylon plant, formerly the DuPont plant, will be a neighbor. "All deeds will say that Koch is an existing entity and that the landowner won't complain about smoke or noise," Butler said. Butler said that the country club board has not decided what it will do with the property, about 3.35 acres. In December 2004, the Seaford City Council approved preliminary site plans for a townhouse development there, with three three-story buildings, each with 10 units. But the contract for construction of the townhouses has expired, Butler said. "We have not revisited what we will do there," Butler said. "But it is my feeling that the land will be developed."

The land was rezoned to allow high-density residential development in September 2004. But in a letter dated Oct. 5, 2004, the DuPont Co. said that a restriction in the country club deed blocked the sale of the land. DuPont owned the country club until 1996. That restriction said that as long as DuPont owned the nylon plant across Woodland Ferry Road from the club, the country club land could only be used for golf and country club-related purposes. DuPont sold the nylon plant to Koch Industries in May 2004. But it still owns the land on which the plant sits, as well as the surrounding land. In its letter, DuPont said that until it "actually sells the land, it is DuPont's position that the [land-use] restriction and right of refusal are still in effect." The country club filed suit. In an August 2006 decision, Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves agreed with DuPont, saying that the "plain meaning of the terms 'Seaford, Delaware plant' and 'plant' includes land along with the nylon manufacturing operation√ČA place includes the land." But last month, the state Supreme Court overturned the Superior Court decision and sent the case back to the lower court, for reexamination. "We conclude that [the Superior Court] finding was not the product of an orderly reasoning process that takes into account the evidence and facts pointing to an opposite result," the court wrote. "The trial court reached its conclusion by selectively considering the material facts." As he has all along, Butler declined to say how much the case is costing the country club. But, he said, "this decision is worth all the effort and money we have put into the case."

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