Court upholds Newark board’s ruling in dispute over garage
A Delaware Superior Court judge has upheld a decision by the Newark Board of Adjustment in a neighborhood dispute over a proposed garage.
The lawsuit concerned an October 2016 decision by the board to allow Timothy Chopko and his wife, Cecilia Carroll, to build a garage in the front yard of their home at 250 Dallam Road.
A car collector, Chopko proposed building a 26-by40-foot garage, where he planned to store four of his cars.
Under city code, garages must be constructed in the rear portion of a yard. However, Chopko told the board that his .58-acre property is unusual because his house is built near the back of the property. With 85 percent of the property defined as a front yard, there is no room to build a garage without a variance, he argued.
The garage would be built off to the side of the front yard, not directly in front of the house.
The property already has a two-car garage, but Chopko said he plans to convert it to a bedroom, bathroom and laundry room due to the small size of the house.
Three neighbors submitted letters in support of the plan, but next-door neighbor Francis Fierro attended the board of adjustment meeting to voice his opposition.
He argued that the garage would negatively affect his property value and change the residential character of the neighborhood. He also worried that Chopko would pave a portion of the yard in front of the garage to use for additional parking.
The board approved the variance unanimously, with the conditions that the driveway would go straight to Dallam Road with no additional parking lot and Chopko would use vegetation to screen the garage from view.
After the decision, Fierro appealed it to Delaware Superior Court, filing suit against the board, the city and Chopko. Fierro argued that the board should not have granted the variance for the garage because it essentially amounts to rezoning the area and because Chopko failed to demonstrate he would suffer a hardship if the variance was denied.
On Jan. 18, Judge Richard R. Cooch upheld the board’s decision, ruling that there is no evidence of legal error in the decision.