Fenwick Resident Files Lawsuit Against Town Over Low-Speed Vehicle Ban

Fenwick Resident Files Lawsuit Against Town Over Low-Speed Vehicle Ban
Photo by Bethany Hooper

FENWICK ISLAND – A lawsuit filed against the Town of Fenwick Island is seeking to have a new ordinance banning low-speed vehicles overturned.

On June 21, Fenwick Island resident Kim Espinosa – a candidate in this year’s municipal election – filed suit against the town in the Delaware Court of Chancery seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from an ordinance prohibiting the use of low-speed vehicles in Fenwick Island.

Espinosa said the ordinance has restricted her family from using their Moke low-speed, electric vehicle on town streets.

“It’s licensed, registered and insured …,” she said. “It’s also the only vehicle we use when we are here.”

In March, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted to approve an ordinance banning the operation of low-speed vehicles on town streets, with the exception of construction equipment, lawnmowers, emergency and town vehicles and assistive mobility devices. Town officials argued the vehicles posed safety risks.

“Sadly, I feel Fenwick is not build for an increase in LSVs and golf cart traffic,” Councilman Bill Rymer said at the time. “We are a small community, but we have a major highway running right down the middle of it … I think it’s going to get worse if we don’t deal with it now.”

Several residents, however, have voiced their objections to the low-speed vehicle ban, arguing they posed no safety issues. The complaint also outlines a state statute allowing the use of low-speed vehicles.

“This action seeks injunctive and declaratory relief arising from Defendant enacting the Code of Fenwick Island § 153-8 (the ‘Ordinance’), which prohibits the operation of low-speed vehicles in the Town of Fenwick Island, in direct conflict with 12 Dec. C. § 2113A (the ‘Statute’),” the complaint reads. “The General Assembly enacted the Statute in 2007, and allows for the operation of low-speed vehicles throughout Delaware on streets with speed limits of not more than thirty-five miles per hour.”

The complaint notes that Espinosa had purchased a Moke in 2021 and utilized the vehicle on town side streets for all of her travel needs.

“Plaintiff brings this action for declaratory relief requesting that this

Court declare that the Ordinance is preempted by the Statute, and may no longer be enforced against individuals operating low-speed vehicles in Fenwick Island,” the complaint reads. “Without immediate preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, Plaintiff is suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable harm in the form of significant interference with her property rights and her constitutionally protected right to travel.”

As the suit works its way through the court system, Espinosa noted she and her husband have also started a GoFundMe page seeking the community’s support in overturning the low-speed vehicle ordinance.

“Recently the Town Council passed an ordinance outlawing Low-Speed Vehicles, despite the fact that the State of Delaware permits them and nearly all residents that attended the council meeting spoke against the ordinance,” the page reads. “We are filing a lawsuit against the City seeking to have the ordinance overturned.  We purchased our vehicle to support the low-speed limit in our town (15 MPH), and it’s also environmentally friendly because it is an electric vehicle.”

When reached for comment last week, Town Manager Pat Schuchman declined to comment, stating, “please be advised that it would be inappropriate for us to comment on any pending litigation.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.