Michael Gabriel had his first look this week at the Delaware Bay Lighthouse he bought from the federal government this fall. According to a story in the News Journal this morning, the California lawyer made the trip out to Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse on Thursday, accompanied by a Delaware man who once helped run the lighthouse for the Coast Guard.
News Journal photographer Gary Emeigh was along for the ride, and it's likely that reporter JL Miller made the trip as well, though his story properly reads as if there was no reporter along. It's a well-written piece. The News Journal offers a nice little slide show of Gary Emeigh's photos; there are some neat shots in there.
It looks like there might be a bit more work involved in making the Lighthouse habitable, but it does look possible. He had his contractors (Delawareans, as is right and proper) along with him and they're already planning repairs and improvements.
One question that I think may yet be unanswered is will Mr. Gabriel pay property taxes on the lighthouse? And, if so, to whom?
This may seem overly bureaucratic of me, but the question came up earlier this fall in a discussion with some of the folks who manage parcel mapping for Kent County. Their job is to maintain property maps for all parcels in the county. And they wondered whether or not they would need to add a new, small, perfectly round parcel out in the Bay.
It looks fairly clearly like this lighthouse is within the Kent County portion of the Delaware Bay; the county doesn't end at the shoreline, it extends out to the state line which runs down the center of the bay at that point. The Bay has traditionally (I think) not been parcel-mapped because it is state or (in parts?) federal public subaqueous land.
It might be the case that the lighthouse will be treated as an owned structure on leased or public land. In that case, does Mr. Gabriel pay a land-rent to the state or the feds? Or does he own the small portion of Bay bottom that his lighthouse rests on?
If it is the case that this is a private in-holding out in the Bay, and a parcel needs to be added to the Kent County Cadastral database, I can see the Kent County parcel data stewards having to answer endless questions from data-users about a "mistake circle" outside of the County.
One of the things I love about Delaware is the never-ending series of fascinating challenges and puzzles presented by a state with such a long and complicated history. We're a funny little state, but we're never dull, not if you keep your eyes and ears open.