Senate Bill 6
152nd General Assembly (Present)
Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 7 OF THE DELAWARE CODE AND CHAPTER 108, VOLUME 62 OF THE LAWS OF DELAWARE, AS AMENDED BY CHAPTER 99, VOLUME 72 OF THE LAWS OF DELAWARE, RELATING TO CLARIFYING THE WARNER GRANT TRUST AND THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT OF CHANCERY AS ARBITER OF DISPUTES REGARDING THE WARNER GRANT TRUST LAND.
In 1682 or 1683, the Sussex County Court, created by William Penn, created the land grant that is the subject of this Act (“Warner Grant”). As this Act describes, the Warner Grant consists of land in and adjacent to the City of Lewes largely consisting of what is now Cape Henlopen State Park. As the United States District Court for Delaware would later find, the Warner Grant created a “right of common” held in trust for the benefit the people of Lewes and Sussex County. See United States v. 1,010.8 Acres Situate in Sussex County, 56 F. Supp. 120 (D. Del. 1944). In the early 1970s, nearly 300 years after the Warner Grant was created, a dispute arose over the meaning of the Warner Grant and who had authority to enforce the right of common under the Warner Grant when the City of Lewes leased land in the Warner Grant to a real estate company for the purpose of constructing a housing development. Lawsuits were filed by members of the public and the Attorney General. Eventually, the 130th General Assembly settled that dispute by enacting Chapter 108 of Volume 62 of the Laws of Delaware to establish the Warner Grant Trust (“Trust”) and set the boundaries of the lands in the Trust, known as the Warner Grant Trust Lands (“Lands”). In light of recent proposals for the use of the Lands, the 152nd General Assembly finds that clarification is necessary as to the permitted uses of the Lands and as to how future disputes are to be litigated. To that end, this Act does all of the following: (1) Makes clear that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (“Department”), as trustee of the Warner Grant Trust Lands, must administer the Lands for the public benefit and adhering to 3 governing priorities: (1) conservation, (2) nature education, and (3) public recreation. (2) Makes clear that the Department must administer the Lands so that a private benefit or financial gain to a for-profit enterprise or public-private partnership is not detrimental to the public benefit. (3) Provides that the Court of Chancery has original jurisdiction over disputes regarding the Lands. (4) Provides that the Attorney General must represent Delawareans in the enforcement of the Trust and, if the Attorney General declines to do so, any resident of Sussex County may sue to enforce the Trust and the Court of Chancery must award attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs who prevail in enforcing the Trust. (5) Includes a provision in the Delaware Code, § 4523 of Title 7, referencing the Department’s duties under this Act to preserve memory of this Act for future generations. Section 1 of this Act amends Chapter 108, Volume 62 of the Laws of Delaware, as amended by Chapter 99, Volume 72 of the Laws of Delaware, which contains 10 sections labelled Section 1 through Section 10. Section 2 of this Act amends the Delaware Code to create a new § 4523 of Title 7.