Sussex County Considers "Special Event" Ordinance Changes, - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex County Considers "Special Event" Ordinance Changes

Posted: 09/21/2017 15:56:00 -04:00 Updated:

SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. - Sussex County may soon change how they look at "special events." County Administrator Todd Lawson says the current wording is too vague and not legally defensible. 

"The language as it's written right now applies to a lot of different events," he says. "It's not about concerts, about specific a property owner, a specific family--this is about the entire county and what can or can't happen under this specific language." 

One new county concert venue, Hudson Fields, says more specific language may end up being too restrictive. Managing Partner Christian Hudson says from his understanding, one of the proposed changes is capping the number of events. 

"The number I've heard bandied about is five. The problem is there's so many cancellations with outdoor events, you'd actually lose a whole lot of money at five," he says. "Do we have to shut down everything except five events a year and are those only concerts? Because then we are really forced to pick and choose what can go on out here, where as for decades there's not really been any restrictions on that."

Hudson says limiting the number of events they can hold could put them out of business. It's that concern that prompted his friend Ryan Moore to start an online petition garnering support for the venue. He received over 1,000 signatures in 24 hours.

"It's a reflection on how much the community respects the Hudsons," he says. "They know they want something locally here for them. They don't have to go to Baltimore for a concert or Philly or fight traffic in Rehoboth. They feel this is their and there's a local sense of pride."

Hudson says they pledge to be good neighbors, and are willing to move their stage or put in sound buffers, but any potential cap is unfathomable. 

"I'm very hopeful the county will do the right thing," he says. "From what I understand the county wants to put in caps and I just don't see the reason why. It's not really a problem. The county's only had one to two people complain about the noise so why are we why are we listening to one to two people at the expense of thousands of people's opinions?"

Lawson says their goal is to find an ordinance fair to all parties in Sussex County.

"We don't want to impact [Hudson Fields'] operation but at the same time we have to be mindful this could impact other property owners in the county and their neighbors," he says. "I don't know that some folks want certain events that just pop up on a weekend and impact their ability to enjoy their property, so we have to make sure we take that balanced approach."

Lawson says they plan to keep a core part of the ordinance in place and build onto it so people clearly understand what constitutes a special event and subsequently dictates county involvement. 

"The way the council has given us instructions, we are going to have a tiered approach where things that fall under a certain threshold the county doesn't even worry about," he says. "But ones that have a certain level of impact we certainly need to make sure we are aware of it." 

The county is still drafting the ordinance changes. Once complete, it will be presented to the County Council in a few weeks, beginning the public hearing process.

"The public will have an opportunity to speak and participate," says Lawson. "This council historically has taken a balanced approach to all of our ordinance updates and they'll continue to take a balanced approach with this one so we look forward to the conversation and debate." 

After the public hearing process, the ordinance will to Planning and Zoning and then again to the County Council for votes and final endorsements of the new language. 


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