Decade-old land deal prompts political backlash, legal fight
From Delaware Online
In late 2008, with the real estate market in free fall, a land-hungry Delaware Department of Transportation purchased two parcels of rural flatland next to Route 1 south of Dover for nearly $2.8 million.
Ten years later, it sold the parcels for $270,000 to influential lawyer and developer John Paradee. It was a price the state says reflected a DelDOT decree that the land would never gain a direct commercial turn-on or turnoff from the adjacent highway – Delaware’s primary north-south artery.
Today, those deals and their multimillion-dollar price discrepancies are attracting controversy, manifested as political assaults on Delaware’s Democratic Party establishment just weeks before the November election.
The land sale also sits at the center of an ongoing lawsuit in Delaware’s business court over DelDOT’s potential granting of accesses from Route 1 to new commercial real estate projects in the Milford-to-Frederica corridor.
The suit is among the latest jockeying between developers seeking to win a race to riches in an area planned as the state’s next exurban hotbed, one whose growth may hinge on the success of the nearby taxpayer-subsidized youth sports complex, DE Turf.
At the center of it all is Paradee, who proclaims to be “widely recognized for his ability to secure approval for difficult or controversial projects.” In December 2018, he purchased the roughly 11 acres of DelDOT land with a team of investors. At 44%, Paradee’s stake is the largest in the partnership.
Combined with adjacent parcels, the land was intended to form the platform on which to build Asbury Square, a hotel, restaurant and retail development. It is one of three ambitiously proposed projects designed to capitalize on government’s push to encourage development in the corridor.