County council considers temporary vendors in B-1, seating concerns

The Sussex County Council this week continued its discussion of an ordinance regarding temporary vendor stands, which would create a streamlined process to allow vendors to operate on property zoned as commercial without having to go through the traditional process of applying for a special use exception before the Board of Adjustment.

“Today is merely a procedural process,” explained County Administrator Todd Lawson. “This will have to go through two levels of public hearing, which is the Planning & Zoning Commission and then come to the County Council for their hearing.”

The proposed ordinance language specifies that the property must be zoned C-1 or CR-1 only; the structure must be temporary and removable (including food trucks, selling food, food-related or agricultural products only); must be in operation for six months or less; have only one stand per parcel, at a maximum size of 8.5 feet wide by 45 feet long; the activity must be approved, in writing, by the property owner; a drawing showing the stand location be submitted to the County; and a valid State of Delaware business license must be provided to the County.

Additionally, if Planning & Zoning Director Lawrence Lank feels it is necessary, he may do a “kick-out” of the process and require the applicant to seek Board of Adjustment approval.

Councilwoman Joan Deaver asked if there was something else the County had to think about if a vendor offered seating.

“This ordinance does not address any of those types of activities, including seating and providing services, like restrooms,” said Lawson. “I would say the only thing this could cover would be the size of the area the activity would cover. If it were to exceed that size that we’re limiting it to, then it would be a concern, and they would have to go outside of the streamlined process and back into the hearing process through a Board of Adjustment process.”

Councilman George Cole said that maybe they should make the ordinance refer to operations/vendors without seating.

“If seating is needed, maybe they ought to fall into that ‘kick-out.’ You might see one table one time, then all of a sudden see 10 tables. In other words, it could get out of control.”

Lawson clarified that the “kick-out” is not listed in the draft ordinance language.

“There are specific concerns listed in the ordinance,” he said. “We listed location, the effects on on-site parking, neighboring properties, roadways, or other good cause. We could specifically list seating as a concern.”

Cole also said wouldn’t be opposed to also including property zoned B-1.

“The difference between B-1 and C-1 is very little,” he said. “Many a shopping center could be a B-1.”

Deaver said she would not be opposed to adding B-1 properties.

Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson said one of the reasons B-1 properties were not included in the draft ordinance was because they are generally more restrictive districts, and the parcels tend to be smaller than C-1 and CR-1 properties.

“You could end up with a stand on an already limited-sized piece of property.”

Lank echoed Robertson, stating, “B-1 is the most restrictive commercial district that we have. The majority of them are small. They’re limited on what they can do. … A lot of those parcels wouldn’t work for the type of activity that’s intended, because the development that’s already there has totaled out the use of the property.”

Deaver said she wanted something basic adopted as soon as possible.

“Time is of the essence here, as far as selling from these vendor carts.”

The council voted 4-1 to include B-1 zoning in the draft ordinance, with Deaver opposed.

“I want to get it going, and it’s simple right now. If we want B-1 later, we can amend it,” she said.

The draft ordinance with the changes will be presented to the council at their Tuesday, April 14, meeting, for possible introduction.