County council pushes for sign enforcement

It wasn’t on the agenda, but Sussex County Council Member George Cole came out strong for enforcement of the county’s sign laws, at the May 9 council meeting (under additional business).

Cole was particularly concerned with what he characterized as violations “too numerous to count,” of the prohibition against flashing signs.

“People asked if we were enforcing it,” Cole stated. “I said, ‘I hope we are.’”

According to Council President Lynn Rogers, county Planning and Zoning Director Lawrence Lank was in the midst of compiling a report, based on a study of flashing signs all across the country.

“We should have that report soon,” Rogers stated.

“I just asked one of our inspectors to violate somebody — are we not enforcing because of this report?” Cole asked. Rogers said the violators had been sent letters, but Cole pressed for full, rather than partial, enforcement — some kind of follow-up.

According to County Constable Robert Betts, if the property owners decline to comply with a notice of violation within 30 days, Planning and Zoning staff members can exercise their discretion. They could: (1) remove offending signs themselves, or (2) issue the property owner a summons to appear in Magistrate’s (Justice of the Peace) Court.

County code prohibits “flashing signs, except time-and-temperature indicators,” and Cole said he felt the prohibition was as appropriate today as it had been when council first enacted it. He suggested that no law that protected against such “gaudy, tacky” signs could ever become outdated.

Council Member Dale Dukes disagreed. He admitted some signs were distracting, “but the interest seems to be in going toward more digital signs,” he noted. “I think we need to change the code.”

“The only thing I can tell you — Mr. Lank said the ordinance needed to be updated, top to bottom,” added Council Member Finley Jones.

“I’m getting concerned — we take an oath of office to enforce the laws of this county.” Cole replied. “Right now, I’m afraid there’s been some direction given that we not enforce them.”