Billboard Companies Voice Opposition to Sign Moratorium - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Billboard Companies Voice Opposition to Sign Moratorium

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

GEORGETOWN, Del. - At a public hearing Tuesday morning, many from the billboard industry spoke out against a proposed moratorium on "off-premise signs." The moratorium would only last until the Sussex County Council could revamp the sign ordinance to deal with threats to "public safety." 

"It's distracting," said Councilman George Cole from District 4. "And throughout the country, we've got all kinds of jurisdictions that ban them totally because they're distracting. And it's a safety issue."

Cole said they are not looking to ban the billboards completely. Instead, he said the intention was the tighten up the ordinance. 

"The problem is the ordinance," he said. "And we will still have billboards. Just hopefully we'll have them safer. And in more appropriate locations." 

At Tuesday's meeting, three people spoke in opposition, and nobody spoke in support of the moratorium. One of the speakers was David Hutt, the attorney who represents the majority of billboard applications in the county. 

"A moratorium is an extraordinary remedy or tool for a legislative body," Hutt said. "Because it stops everything that the code permits." 

Hutt said the lack of speakers in support of the moratorium should send a message to the council. 

"It indicates to me that there is no crisis," he said. "Because if people felt like there was a need to have a moratorium on signs, we would have seen plenty of people here." 

At the meeting, one major focus of the discussion was the use of digital billboards. At this point, there is currently only one off-premise digital billboard, located in front of Hocker's Super Center on Route 26 in Millville. Cole said that regardless of the number, the council should nip the problem in the bud.

"This is the best time to address it..." he said. "You don't want to address a problem when you have a big problem. We are going to address the problem now."

The Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission already held its public hearing on the issue, and is expected to vote on its recommendation by the end of August. 

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