County introduces parking ordinances

Sussex County Council introduced four ordinances, all related to parking, at the Oct. 4 council meeting, and while they won’t reappear on the agenda until Nov. 17 (at county Planning and Zoning), Council Member George Cole made clear he’d probably vote against all four when they come before council in December.

While there’s typically little discussion at the time of introduction, Cole asked Council President Finley Jones why they’d come before council at all. “Where’d you get this, at (the National Association of Counties, or NACo),” he asked. “Nobody wants this.”

One would “permit the sharing of required parking serving multiple uses within the same project and under the same ownership,” another would “reduce the size of an off-street parking space…” (and allow a reduction for compact cars, under certain circumstances). A third ordinance would slightly reduce (by 1 foot) the width of parking lot interior drives, and a fourth would change required off-street parking for townhouses and multifamilies from “3 per family unit” to “2 per dwelling unit.”

“We just changed this, a couple years ago,” Cole said, referring to that last one. He suggested these new ordinances were closely aligned with developers’ complaints that parking takes up too much space.

Jones suggested the ordinances were intended to reduce impermeable surface, improving stormwater management, and the national average was only 1.7 parking spaces per family. However, Cole said he wasn’t hearing complaints about too much extra parking. “When you’re in a resort area, you can throw the book away,” he stated.

Council also introduced a mapping and addressing ordinance, which formally codifies policy regarding 911 addressing. With enactment of this ordinance, the county will have the authority to levy fines on county residents who fail to switch over to 911 addressing and install approved numbering in an approved location.

There’s an 18-month grace period and then county Mapping & Addressing Director Matt Laick said the county would send out certified warning letter. Property owners would then have another two weeks to comply, or incur a $50 fine.

The county would then send out a second certified letter, and if property owners again failed to comply within two weeks, they would fall into liability for $100 a day in fines.

This ordinance will come back for public hearing at the Oct. 25 council meeting. It applies only to county lands — municipalities are unaffected.

In other business, County Administrator Bob Stickels said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had recently declared Sussex County “StormReady.” From Stickels’ report, the designation means a community and its emergency planners have established (1) a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center, (2) multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings and alert the public and (3) a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training weather spotters and holding field exercises.

He said Delaware was the first state in the continental U.S. to win the designation, and congratulated Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joe Thomas, and his staff.

According to Stickels, despite recent newspaper articles in the wake of Hurricane Katrina indicating otherwise, Sussex County was indeed well-prepared for emergency weather, although he suggested no one could ever fully prepare for something like a direct hit from a Category 5.