Sussex officials look at flags, bannersCouncil asks staff to seek more information
Sussex County does not have any regulations concerning flags and banners, which are primarily flown by businesses. An explosion of feather flags has forced Sussex officials to look at possible regulations.
Ironically, when the county first established its code in the early 1970s, the only flags and banners permitted were U.S., state and organizational flags; all others were prohibited, said Sussex Planning and Zoning Director Lawrence Lank during a Sept. 10 presentation to county council. That ordinance was amended within a few years opening the door for all types of flags and banners.
Lank did not present a proposed ordinance for council to consider saying he wanted council input before preparing a draft ordinance. Lank asked officials if they wanted an outright ban similar to what was in place in the early 1970s or if they wanted to place limits on the number of banners and flags that could be placed on a parcel.
Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, was the first to speak up. “I would think we would end up limiting the number and not outlawing them,” he said. “People have used 'open' flags for years. The complaints are coming about those who use multiple feather flags that obstruct the view of other businesses.”
On Cole's suggestion, council directed staff to ascertain what other jurisdictions do to deal with excessive banners and flags. The matter will be placed on a future council agenda for more discussion.
“We have to keep in mind how much we put on staff,” said Councilman Vance Phillips, R-Laurel. “This could be difficult for staff to police.”
“I think they had a good idea back in the 1970s,” said Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach.
Lank said most flags should be considered signs and fall under the county's sign regulations, adding an amended ordinance may have to specifically address “open for business” flags.
Lank said it could be inferred that feather flags and banners are prohibited because they are not specifically mentioned in county code. “But another lawyer could argue for the same reason they are allowed. That argument never seems to get resolved,” he said.
Bandit signs still show up every weekend
It's impossible to have a discussion about signs in county council chambers without the phrase “bandit signs” surfacing. The small signs announcing Cape Region open houses and providing directions to developments have become a thorn in the sides of county and state officials.
Although illegal, the signs continue to crop up every weekend in the 10-foot right-of-way along roads in eastern Sussex County. Not long ago, Sussex County declared an all-out war against the signs and confiscated them by the thousands. Fines were also handed out to those who authorized placement of the signs.
Lank said Delaware Department of Transportation officials have stopped pulling up the bandit signs due to staffing restraints. “They gave us permission to pull them up, but it's hard to determine if they are in the right-of-way or not,” he said. “We have stopped charging fines, and we have not been pulling signs on weekends.”
But, the county does remove signs left over from the weekend or placed along roadways during the week. "The problem with fining the individual businesses has been differentiating between signs in sate rights-of-way and on private property when pulling all signs," Lank said.
County Administrator Todd Lawson said Realtors and developers have approached him about setting up an agreement to allow placement of the signs on weekends. “Right now, the signs are put up late Friday night and pulled by Sunday evening when the county and DelDOT are not enforcing it,” he said.