County introduces draft moratorium on signs

An ordinance that would establish a moratorium for off-premisess sign applications in Sussex County was introduced before the Sussex County Council earlier this week.

The draft ordinance, which was introduced by Councilman George Cole on July 28, states that the council “views the placement of off-premisess signs as an important public-safety issue” and believes that “the recent proliferation of off-premisess signs has a detrimental effect on the safety and welfare of the citizens of Sussex County.”

If approved, the moratorium would direct the Sussex County Planning & Zoning office to decline applications for special-use exceptions for off-premises signs for a period of six months.

The moratorium is designed to allow the County “a reasonable time period for the review and study of off- premisess signs, the preparation of proposed legislation to address resultant issues, and the consideration of said legislation.”

“I think they’re very distracting,” said Councilwoman Joan Deaver.

Councilman Sam Wilson said he was against a moratorium, which he said would cost the County money.

“Sussex County will lose 50 cents for every square foot of sign that we stop. Fifty-cents,” he said. “With the permits … we get 25 cents every year, per foot, off every sign that’s put on a billboard. That’s real money.”

Wilson also said he hasn’t heard from any of his constituents who are “dogmatically against” off-premises signs.

“I’ve had people say, ‘It doesn’t bother me.’ I’ve literally gone out and talked to, probably, 100 people.”
Cole said he has spoken with one of the major sign companies in the western side of the county, who supports it 100 percent.

“He said a lot of it has gotten out of hand,” said Cole. “He said he supported it and didn’t have any problems with it.”

Cole added that the council is responding to the Board of Adjustment’s concerns and complaints from county residents.

“In the end, I know this has been an issue. It’s been a concern — mostly for Councilman Cole, as it relates to conversations he’s had with people from within his area,” said Councilman Rob Arlett. “I look forward to learning more about the signs.”

Dan Kramer of Greenwood spoke out against the County’s proposed moratorium.

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

Kramer said he hopes the County’s Planning & Zoning office will be inundated with off-premises sign application requests until the moratorium goes into effect.

“I’m hoping these companies will come in here and slap as many permits and overload this system to no end between now and then. Have at it.”

The council voted 4-1 to introduce the proposed moratorium, with Wilson opposed.

Also at the July 26 council meeting, County officials unveiled its enhanced web-based mapping portal, which is designed to help the public better understand land use in Sussex County.

The geographic information system-based (GIS-based) replaced the County’s older “clunky” system,
which County Administrator Todd Lawson said was difficult to navigate.

The new system includes up-to-date zoning information, flood zones, 911 addresses, election districts, school districts, library locations and other data.

“This platform will grow in time and remain current with any information we decide to place up here,” said Lawson. “It’s a great interactive experience… We’re very pleased with the way this came out.”

To view the new platform, visit