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Rowen v. Emmett S. Hickman Co.

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 29, 1955

Sidney S. ROWEN and Ida B. Rowen, Appellants, Petitioners below,
EMMETT S. HICKMAN CO., for The Diamond State Telephone Company, Appellee, Respondent below.

Proceeding to review an order of board of adjustment granting right to establish a parking lot in residential zone and a variance of setback requirement under Wilmington Zoning Ordinance. The Superior Court of New Castle County, rendered judgment affirming order of board of adjustment, as modified by board in accordance with Supreme Court mandate, and objecting property owners appealed. On motion by respondent to dismiss appeal, the Supreme Court, Southerland, C. J., held that such appeal would not lie for the purpose of reviewing setback variance, as granted by original order of board and not affected by Supreme Court mandate.

Appeal dismissed.

Where objection to variance of setback requirement of zoning ordinance was not raised on appeal from judgment affirming order of zoning board of adjustment, granting such variance and also right to establish parking lot in residential area, and mandate of Supreme Court reversing judgment as to parking lot with direction to modify order accordingly, if applicant elected to present no further evidence on issue, was expressly so limited as not to affect setback variance, appeal would not lie from judgment affirming order of board, as modified in accordance with mandate, for purpose of reviewing grant of setback variance.

[49 Del. 293] Motion by appellee to dismiss an appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of New Castle County affirming an order of the Board of Adjustment under the Wilmington Zoning Ordinance. Motion granted.

Robert C. Barab, Wilmington, for appellants.

David F. Anderson, Berl, Potter & Anderson, Wilmington, for appellee.


SOUTHERLAND, Chief Justice.

This is a second appeal in this case. On the first appeal it appeared that the telephone company had sought from the Board of Adjustment an order (1) granting the right to establish a parking lot in a residential zone, and (2) granting the right to join a telephone exchange and office building by varying a set-back requirement applicable to the exchange. The company's application was granted in both respects, and on appeal to the Superior Court it was affirmed. Upon appeal to us the contention respecting the variance of the set-back requirement was not raised. We reversed the holding as to the parking lot, because there was no evidence showing that a parking lot for employees was a use customarily incidental to a telephone exchange, and no showing of hardship justifying a variance, but we gave leave to the company to present evidence upon the issue of customary use. In remanding the case to the Board we said:

‘ If the company elects to take no further action the Board should, by appropriate proceedings, modify its determination so as to conform to the principles laid down in this opinion.’ Del., 108 A.2d 667, 675.

Upon remand the company elected to present to present no further testimony, and the Board then modified its order to eliminate therefrom any references to the parking lot. Its prior order granting the variance in respect of the set-back was left in full force. On appeal to the Superior

Page 321

Court the Board's decision was affirmed.

[49 Del. 294] The objectors now seek to review in this Court the legality of the Board's original order granting the variance as to the set-back-an order approved by the Superior Court and not attacked before us on the first appeal. It is said that after a reversal of a judgment below, a second appeal may raise questions not passed on by the appellate court in the first appeal. Objectors cite Mutual Life Ins. Co. of New York v. Hill, 193 U.S. 551, 24 S.Ct. 538, 48 L.Ed. 788.When that case first came before the Supreme Court of the United States it presented the question of the sufficiency in law of certain defenses in the answer. The order of the trial court sustaining a demurrer to those defenses was reversed and the case remanded. The second appeal came after trial on the merits, upon amended pleadings. It was held that the prior remand did not foreclose the defendant from raising questions not passed on by the Supreme Court on the first appeal. As will be seen, that case presents facts quite different from those before us. The issue now sought to be raised was specifically passed on by the Board and by the Superior Court, and on appeal to this Court was abandoned. Accordingly, our mandate was a limited one. We directed the Board to hear testimony if the company chose to present it; and further expressly directed the Board, if the company chose not to present testimony, to modify its determination to conform to our opinion-that is, to eliminate the parking lot. This it has done.

Objectors say that the language of our opinion does not necessarily import a limited remand. We think that it does. If there were any doubt upon the matter it would be dispelled by a reference to the written application of the company's counsel to modify the concluding language of the opinion as originally filed. Counsel urged us to make it clear that the Board's ruling respecting the joining of the buildings (i. e., the elimination of the set-back requirement) should be permitted to stand regardless of future developments in the case. Of this application objectors had ample notice. They protested that the modification requested would limit the Board's discretion upon further ...

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