County adopts policy on business incentives

The Sussex County Council at their meeting this week adopted a policy regarding economic development incentives. Outgoing County Administrator David Baker said that the policy pertains to supplemental economic incentives for businesses, with the goal of growing jobs in Sussex County.

Baker explained that, under the policy, businesses could receive up to $800 per new full-time employee, among other incentives, and that each case would be looked at individually.

“It wouldn’t be across-the-board,” said Baker. “It would be on a case-by-case basis.”

He said that, in looking at some Delaware municipalities, including Seaford, Georgetown, Wilmington and Dover, and the other two counties, they also have incentives including reductions in property taxes, reducing fees for construction, sewer and water services; and spreading out fees, instead of requiring everything upfront.

“We can’t afford what the State of Delaware does, but in matching some of the area towns and the other counties, we can do our part to encourage people to come to Sussex County,” said Baker.

“It’s similar to what we have had in the past, but it has more guidelines for the future,” he concluded.

In other county news from the Nov. 29 council meeting, Lawrence Lank, director of Sussex County Planning and Zoning, brought forth an ordinance regarding electronic signs and message boards. He said electronic signs, including LED signs, are mentioned and regulated in county code regarding on-premise signs, but in code on off-premise signs, “generally billboards,” there is nothing referring to electronic or LED signs.

He explained that that omission can be taken either way, with some people being under the assumption that because they are not mentioned, they are not allowed, and others being under the assumption that because they are not mentioned, and therefore not strictly prohibited, that they are, in fact, allowed.

In adding the verbiage regarding off-premise electronic signs, Lank said applicants would at least be able to apply for a special-use exception and would be able to go in front of the Board of Adjustments and have a public hearing on the matter.

Councilman George Cole said he didn’t think it would “benefit anything, and they will be annoying and, some say, dangerous.” He also said the signs were more akin to signs being seen on Interstate 95, not Routes 1, 113 and 13.

“By taking no action, and the code not referencing it, is that saying they are allowed?” asked Council President Michael Vincent.

County Attorney Everett Moore said the council should be very careful because, legally, “being silent” on the subject can be seen as being permissive.

Cole offered that a second ordinance be introduced, specifically prohibiting the signs, so that, should the ordinance introduced this week not pass, they still can make a statement regarding the signs and not be silent on the subject. The council introduced the proposed ordinance, and Lank said county staff would draft a second one prohibiting the signs, for possible introduction next week.

Also on Nov. 29, the council appointed Norman “Bud” Rickert, a former Sussex County employee who worked in Planning and Zoning and acted as the Board of Adjustments’ secretary, to a position on the board itself. He will replace Ronald McCabe, who has been on the board for more than 25 years. Rickert said his experience with Chapter 115 of the county code and his professional background with the County will help him in his role of carrying out the duties of a board member.

In other news, Sussex County Council approved a wastewater agreement for Seagrass Plantation, Revision 2, Phase 3, on Irons Lane. It will be part of the Holts Landing Sanitary Sewer District and will serve 45 single-family homes.