Moratorium extension expected today as county council awaits sign ordinance draft

GEORGETOWN — A twice-extended moratorium primarily targeting new billboards is scheduled to be extended a third time today as Sussex County Council awaits the draft of a proposed new sign ordinance.

In mid-September 2015, county council imposed the moratorium on planning and zoning commission’s acceptance of special-use exception applications for off-premises signs/billboards.

The moratorium was extended three months in March and two additional months at the June 14 meeting.

At its Aug. 2 meeting, council finalized a series of itemized motions in progressing toward a sign ordinance draft.

Majority consensus was given to:

  • Separation distance of 50 feet is required between off-premise and on-premise signs;
  • Setback requirements for off-premise signs should remain at 40 feet for front yard and 50 feet for side yard;
  • Separation distance of 150 feet from an off-premise sign and property that is or contains a church, school, dwelling or public lands. Measurement is from sign edge on a radium and property lines are factored in the calculation;
  • Limiting placement of an off-premise sign within 600 feet of another off-premise sign on all roads. Measured on a radius on roads less than four lanes; measure lineally on roads with four lanes or more;
  • Addressing enforcement of abandoned on-premise signs by allowing the director to remove an abandoned sign face and fine the owner; sign structure would remain;
  • 200 square foot size limit for on-premise electronic message centers;
  • Separation distance of 50 feet from an off-premise sign for an on-premise electronic message center less than 101 square feet; separation distance of 50 feet plus one foot per square foot if the on-premise EMC exceeds 100 square feet; measured on a radius; no variances permitted;
  • Motion requirements for EMCs that would allow image and frame effects that appear or disappear from the display through dissolve, fade, flip or window shade movements, while prohibiting scrolling, live action video, streaming video, flashing messages all animation;
  • Permitting off-premises electronic message centers in same zoning districts as on-premise signs; special use exception and compliance with off-premise sign regulations would be required;
  • Separation distance of 1,200 between off-premise EMC’s on two-lane roads; separation distance of 2,500 feet between off-premise EMCs on four-lane roads; measured lineally;
  • Prohibiting any kind of motion on off-premise EMCs;
  • Allowing replacement of non-conforming off-premise signs provided a variance is obtained; height or size variances are not permitted.

Council will further address non-conforming off-premise signs that are abandoned.

Following a series of working group sessions, an initial ordinance was introduced in April. That triggered an alternative ordinance developed by local attorney David Hutt. County planning and zoning chimed in with their recommendations.

Once the document is finalized it will be drawn up and introduced as an ordinance. Public hearings at county planning and zoning and county council meetings will follow.

County council president Michael Vincent, R-Seaford, emphasized the need for additional public input.

Sussex County Council for 2015: from left, seated, Samuel Wilson, R-Georgetown, and Michael Vincent, R-Seaford; standing, Robert Arlett, R-Frankford; Joan Deaver, D-Lewes; and George Cole, R-Ocean View. At the Jan. 6 meeting, Mr. Vincent was re-elected council president and Mr. Wilson was re-elected vice president. (Special to the Sussex County Post)

Michael Vincent

“This has gotten … a lot of conversation. It is easy to get mixed thoughts. Since we had our public hearing we’ve had a lot of meetings. It has been the five of us and attorneys conversing and the public has had no comment,” said Mr. Vincent. “My recommendation would be that we would end up with a final document, have it drawn up as an ordinance, introduce that ordinance, and then have a public hearing on that and see what the public has to say.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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