County Council OKs streamlined permitting process for seasonal food-related vendors

GEORGETOWN – After months of discussion, Sussex County Council cast final approval for a streamlined permitting process for temporary/seasonal produce and food-related vendors in specific zoning areas in the County.

By a 5-0 vote May 19, County Council approved the ordinance proposal that carries a $100 application fee and a specified seasonal period spanning March 15 through Nov. 15.

The ordinance, structured to eliminate the costly, burdensome and lengthy conditional use process through the County’s Board of Adjustment, allows seasonal produce and food-related vendors meeting certain requirements to seek over-the-counter approval to set up shop in general commercial (C-1), commercial residential (CR-1) as well as neighborhood business districts (B-1) – if criteria are met at the discretion of the County Planning & Zoning Director. If criteria is not met or there are concerns, the applicant would then seek a special use permit through the Board of Adjustment.

“The idea was that if you were truly temporary and you were small in scale and you were not a permanent structure on a piece of property, you shouldn’t have to go through the big process of having to go to conditional use …,” said Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson.

The $100 fee, specific period, and one-year application validity and were amendments approved prior to a public hearing that preceded Council’s vote.

The ordinance does not in any way affect typical farm markets, produce stands or roadside stands selling farm/agricultural goods legally on agricultural/residential property.

The $100 fee was determined to be a fair price to cover the County’s cost for record-keeping, the color-coded sticker and inspection.

Mr. Robertson noted it is considerably less than the conditional-use process, which can cost several thousand dollars.

“This was a reasonable cost,” Mr. Robertson said.

Among requirements contained in the ordinance are the applicant must provide written approval from the property owner, a drawing/sketch of the proposed location and a current State of Delaware business license.

Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, asked about staff enforcement.

“Do we do any inspection to see if it is properly located, or are we going to again be a complaint driven enforcement,” said Mr. Cole.

“We would have to do an inspection,” said County Planning and Zoning Director Lawrence Lank.

Mr. Lank said someone in violation would typically be given 10 days to correct; if not then the County could yank their permit.

Mr. Robertson said the permit “would be revoked if they didn’t comply with the approval.”

The rationale in amending the timeframe to a specific mid-March through mid-November period rather than six months was to make policing easier.

“It makes more sense,” Mr. Robertson said. “Everybody starts at the same; everybody ends at the same time.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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