Introduction sets county sign ordinance proposal in motion

GEORGETOWN – Increased separation distances and hikes in construction and annual fees are among numerous bullet-point highlights in a sign ordinance proposal introduced Tuesday morning during Sussex County Council’s meeting.

Following a presentation by Assistant County Attorney Jamie Sharp, council moved to officially introduce the proposed ordinance.

Sign ordinance reform has been in the works for months dating back to 2015, including working group and staff sessions.

A moratorium on acceptance of special-use exception applications for billboards that was approved by county council last September remains in effect, pending the outcome of the sign ordinance proposal.

Regarding off premise signs/billboards, the proposal includes increases in construction permit fees from 50 cents to 65 cents per square foot with a minimum $32 for signs.

The annual fee would increase to 32 cents per square foot from 25 cents with a $32 minimum, under the proposal.

These increases factor in projected funding to support one county staff hire to serve in sign ordinance enforcement, which currently does not exist.

“We actually backed in the fee based on the hiring of one staffer,” said Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson. “The fees were developed in conjunction with the finance director. So those proposed fees will cover one new employee.”

Projected salary is $45,000 plus benefits, which equates to $75,000 total, said County Finance Director Gina Jennings.

“The new rates would cover the cost of this person,” Ms. Jennings said.

“If we find out that one is not enough – we are a huge county – do we have the flexibility to increase those without any problem? Or are they going to be enshrined in an ordinance that we have to then change the ordinance?” said county councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View.

Mr. Sharp and County Attorney Everett Moore said numbers relating to components of the proposal can be changed during the upcoming ordinance process.

“So those numbers could be changed. I just want to make sure,” Mr. Cole said.

The ordinance is next scheduled to dot county council’s agenda May 24.

It is slated to go before the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission May 12 and May 26 for review and public hearing.

Issues and topics addressed Tuesday included revised definitions, fees, on premise and off premise signs, electronic message centers, non-conforming off premise signs and enforcement.

Bandit signs, directional signs, temporary construction signs, instructional signs and a Clean Hands Ordinance Amendment will also be addressed.

Under the under proposal, the separation distance between a billboard (off premise sign) and a dwelling, school church or public lands would increase from current 300 feet to 500 feet.

The separation distance from other off-premise signs would increase from 300 feet to

1,000 feet; with a separation distance of 50 feet from on-premises signs.

In addition, off-premise sign height limitation would increase from 25 feet to 35 feet under the proposal.


News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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