Sussex County Council Introduces Sign Ordinance - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex County Council Introduces Sign Ordinance

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The Sussex County Council introduced the ordinance at its April 29 meeting in Georgetown (Photo: WBOC) The Sussex County Council introduced the ordinance at its April 29 meeting in Georgetown (Photo: WBOC)

GEORGETOWN, Del. - A newly proposed ordinance could mean brand new regulations on billboards in Sussex County. This is as a controversial moratorium on off-premise sign construction continues into its seventh month. 

The ordinance is multi-faceted, addressing traditional and electronic billboards. It also looks to increase enforcement by increasing fines. Councilman George Cole has been one of the main advocates for the ordinance, arguing that the signs can be a distraction for drivers, as they proliferate across the county.

"We're starting to look like a mini-Las Vegas," said Cole. 

The ordinance targets traditional billboards, by creating mandatory front and back setbacks of 40 feet, while expanding the distance between off-premise signs to 1,000 feet. Currently, the mandatory distance between off-premise signs is 300 feet. The ordinance also increases both the annual fee and the construction fee for these billboards. 

Another main focus of the ordinance is on electronic signs, in which illumination standards would be created. The ordinance also would ban animations and noise on these signs.

"Electronic signs are getting out of hand," Cole said. "And we need to look at those because it's starting to get really distracting."

The ordinance also makes changes with enforcement, by proposing to switch from a $25 "disposal fee" to a "removal fee" of in between $100 and $1,000. A public hearing for the Planning and Zoning Commission was set for May 10, and the County Council public hearing was set for May 24. 

"This is just a starting point," said Councilman Rob Arlett. 

Some in the business community expressed their opposition to the ordinance. That included former councilman Lynn Rogers, who is the owner of Rogers Sign in Milton. Rogers was on a county committee tasked with discussing the topic, and said he was disappointed with the end-ordinance. 

"It's been twisted quite a bit," he said. "So my concern is why did it change so much from what a lot of people spent a lot of time creating."

Rogers said that the change in distance between billboards to 1,000 feet would put dozens of billboards in a state of non-compliance. Even though they would be grandfathered in, he said this could create problems with repairs.  

"When you're over here on Route One," he said. "On Coastal Highway - that's all built out billboard-wise, you're doing nothing but creating a non-conformity."

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