Proposed moratorium on off-premise signs in procedural pipeline

GEORGETOWN – A proposed moratorium on off-premises sign applications is officially in the Sussex County ordinance procedure pipeline.

The proposed ordinance – introduced during the July 28 Sussex County Council meeting – would establish a six-month moratorium upon the acceptance of applications for a special use exception for off-premises signs.

The moratorium may be extended, modified, or terminated at any time by a majority vote by County Council.

During the moratorium period, Sussex County Planning & Zoning Office and the zoning director, Lawrence Lank, would decline to accept all special use exception applications for an off-premises sign.

County Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, precipitated the moratorium movement, saying the County Board of Adjustment is having a problem with electronic/off-premises signs because current County code “doesn’t have teeth.”

“I think we are responding to the Board of Adjustment’s concerns. I get more complaints on this issue …,” said Mr. Cole, who introduced the proposal.

County Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Lewes, who represents District 3 that is experiencing substantial development and business growth, believes signs have become distracting.

“We still have those big signs. I do think they are distracting to folks who come here from out of town, other countries,” said Ms. Deaver. “For the safety of those traveling on Rt. 1, I would like to have some guidelines …”

County Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, opposes the moratorium, saying it will cost the County money.

“To start with we are coming across like we are not losing a dime by putting on a moratorium. That’s not true. Sussex County will lose 50 cents for square foot of sign that we stop; 50 cents,” said Mr. Wilson. “I’ve literally gone out and talked – I don’t know – to probably 100 people and I can’t really find people that are really dogmatically against this.

“It doesn’t really bother me. But it should bother this county; 50 cents a square foot. And believe it or not, after they get the permit … we get 25 cents every year, per foot, on every sign that is put out on a billboard,” Mr. Wilson added. “Now that’s money; that’s real money. Now are we in business to say well it’s really that big of a problem to us that we’re willing to cut this income out …?”

Mr. Cole said a western Sussex businessman with one of the major sign companies in the County supports the moratorium.

“He supports it 100 percent,” Mr. Cole said. “It has gotten out of hand.”

“He didn’t call me, George,” said Mr. Wilson.

“He called me. I’ve known him 30 years,” said Mr. Cole.

Greenwood resident Daniel Kramer, a self-proclaimed governmental watchdog, addressed the moratorium issue during the public commentary portion of the meeting.

“I think it is mighty stupid to put a moratorium on these signs,” said Mr. Kramer said. “It shows that you’re anti-business and you don’t care about business.”

The moratorium ordinance will go before Planning & Zoning and Sussex County for public hearings.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at


News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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