Mears ready to serve as board of adjustment member


GEORGETOWN – A brief vacancy on the Sussex County Board of Appeals is officially filled.

The appointment of Millville resident J. Bruce Mears to the five-member quasi-judicial body received county council’s unanimous approval at council’s Sept. 26 meeting.

J. Bruce Mears listens to a question during the public interview prior to his appointment to Sussex County’s board of adjustment.

Mr. Mears, self-employed as the founder/owner of Bruce Mears Designer Builder since 1985, succeeds Norman “Bud” Rickard, who retired after 5 ½ years on the board of adjustment.

Council’s 5-0 vote followed a public interview process monitored by Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson. Mr. Mears will serve as the appointee for District 4. He was nominated by councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, who represents District 4.

“He has been on our building code appeals board for many years,” said Mr. Cole. “I actually have always thought that realtors and builders and contractors do have a good feel for land use in this county.”

Mr. Cole added that “I think Bruce has ability to say ‘no.’”

Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, said the past perception of some is that board of adjustment perhaps has given out “candy a little too easily. The challenge with the board of adjustment, or perhaps the blessing, is that they are a quasi-judicial … the final say. So, what they say is it.”

“Of course, each case will be different. Sometimes the lot might be the size of a postage stamp and a minor variance might help the client build a home or help increase their property value and doesn’t impact their neighbors,” said Mr. Mears. “I will just attempt to make a fair decision for each applicant that serves the county, the applicant’s neighbors and the applicant as well as possible. As councilman Cole says, I have no issue saying no if have to say no.”

Mr. Mears said his self-employment status allows scheduling flexibility to attend board of adjustment meetings, held twice monthly in public session.

He added he is aware of no current conflicts of interest.

“But being a local Sussex County resident, I am sure I will know a few folks or be associated with a few folks that apply for the board of adjustment at which time if I deem it a conflict I would recuse myself,” said Mr. Mears.

Mr. Mears has served 21 years on the Sussex County Building Code Board of Adjustment Appeals, including chairman since 2003. With 32 years of experience in the building industry, he has worked side by side with planning and zoning.

“My experience and knowledge would give me the opportunity to use my talent to serve our community,” said Mr. Mears.

He said his experience qualifies him to join the board of adjustment without a learning curve. “I can make an immediate contribution. I will be honored to serve Sussex County and the board of adjustment,” Mr. Mears said.

Mr. Lawson said Mr. Mears will be in touch with the relevant county attorney to be briefed with some “legal tutoring” before he actually “sits on the hot seat.”

Mr. Mears’ appointed term was effective immediately. It runs through June of 2020.

“Thank you for stepping up and serving this county as you have,” said Mr. Arlett.

“Thank you councilman Arlett,” said Mr. Mears. “I’ll make you proud.”

With this appointment, the board of adjustment is comprised of Mr. Mears (District 4), chairman Dale Callaway (District 3), Ellen Magee (District 5), John Mills (District 1) and E. Brent Workman (District 2).

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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