County planners recommend altering proposed ordinance

The Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission met on Sept. 22 to make a recommendation to the Sussex County Council related to a proposed signage ordinance introduced last month that would revise the County’s sign code in its entirety.

The Commission had held a public hearing on Sept. 8 but chose to defer any action so as to have time to consider the testimony. At their Sept. 22 meeting, Commissioner Irwin G. “I.G.” Burton III presented a prepared recommendation, which adopted some changes as recommended by Georgetown attorney David Hutt of Morris James Wilson Halbrook & Bayard LLP, who had spoken on behalf of Clear Channel Outdoor, Geyer Signs, Hocker Signs, Jack Lingo Realtors, J.D. Sign Company, Ocean Atlantic, Phillips Signs Inc., Premier Outdoor Media LLC, Rogers Sign Co. Inc. and Timmons Outdoor Advertising.

Burton had recommended the elimination of the general prohibition against animation, clarifying that that animation is permitted, with some exceptions — continuous scrolling left to right or up and down, live action or streaming video, or flashing messages.

Burton’s motion also recommended the reduction of the front setback for off-premises signs from 40 feet to 25 feet, which he said will “allow appropriate transition” and make the ordinance consistent with the DelDOT front-yard setback as well.

Burton also recommended allowing the erection of off-premises signs 50 feet from an on-premises sign; that Realtor signs should be increased in maximum size from 10 square feet to 32 square feet per side, and allow for signage to be arranged in a V; and the removal of a separation distance between on-premises electronic message centers (EMCs) and off-premises signs.

“This could negatively affect the right of an on-premises business owner to advertise his or her business with an EMC,” he noted.

In the ordinance, as currently proposed before the County, a sign destroyed by nature that was non-conforming would not be permitted to be rebuilt; nor would a sign with 50 percent or more of the supporting pikes or structures located above-ground, or destruction of 75 percent or more of the facing, be able to be repaired or reconstructed.

Burton agreed with Hutt that non-conforming signs should be allowed to be reconstructed within a 12-month timeframe.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to recommend Burton’s motion to the County Council, with Chairman Bob Wheatley abstaining, as he was not present for the public hearing.

The Sussex County Council is expected to discuss the commission’s recommendations at its Oct. 4 council meeting.