Cape Gazette

Sussex to limit feather flags

Council: Businesses post too many banners
By Ron MacArthur | Feb 11, 2013
Feather flags like these along Route 1 are in high-traffic areas all over Sussex County.

You've seen them all over Sussex County: feather-shaped, banner flags along county roadways to advertise everything from pizzas and hot sauce to homes and condos.

The signs are technically illegal under county code, yet the code gives county officials little ammunition to enforce the regulation.

Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, called it a gray area that needs to be fixed. Director of Planning and Zoning Lawrence Lank agreed saying it would benefit his staff to know once and for all if the flags are permitted. An updated ordinance with regulations specific to feather flags could address the concerns.

During council's Feb. 5 meeting, Cole said he is not opposed to the popular flags, but some businesses use too many. “The number is the key,” Cole said.

“We've had complaints about the number of the flags; that seems to be the real problem,” Lank said.

A recent check of the Route 1 corridor from Five Points to the Rehoboth Beach intersection found more than 40 feather flags. More than 30 were counted along Route 9 leading to Five Points.

Lank will return to council at a future meeting with more information about the number of flags in the county and also how other jurisdictions regulate feather signs. He said if council allows them, officials could place limits on how many and how long feather flags can be placed on a roadway.

Lank said prior to the early 1980s, the county's sign ordinance listed specifically which flags could be flown in front of a business including national, county and state and civic organization flags. Lank said all other flags were prohibited. “For some reason a previous council voted to change that,” he said.

Since then, Lank said, it's been left to staff interpretation to determine if a flag or banner was a permitted use.

“We've not removed any feather flags, but we have asked developers to remove them,” Lank said.

Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach, said she understands the flags can be useful for attracting attention and advertising. “Even so, there are so many distractions on Route 1,” she said.

The county had a similar issue with an explosion of what officials called bandit signs placed along roads advertising home sales and open houses. In 2008, the county banned the signs on weekdays but allowed them on weekends if they are posted outside the state highway right-of-way. Even so, Lank said, some signs are placed within the state's 10-foot right-of-way and are confiscated.

County and state transportation officials have reached an agreement allowing county staff to remove the signs.


Feather, banner-type, flags have become a marketing tool for many Sussex County businesses. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The roadway along Route 9 is also a popular place for placement of feather flags. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Comments (5)
Posted by: Barry Wayne Price | Feb 11, 2013 08:36

They are optical pollution from my perception. Outlaw them; especially along the Rt. One corridor, and other heavy traffic roadways. There is way too much visual stimulation which may draw attention, and momentary focus from drivers on these biways.

Posted by: Thomas Adams | Feb 11, 2013 15:58

You’d never know after reading Mr. MacArthur’s article that he had reported on the issue of feather flags in an article on July 8, 2011 which read in part: “Signs are always an area that draws complaints, said Lawrence Lank, director of county planning and zoning. For example, the new feather flags dotting just about every commercial area in Sussex County are technically illegal if they contain wording or pictures. ‘This needs to be addressed in the code,’ Lank said.  He said the use is growing so rapidly that the county should step in and set up regulations how many a business can have and where they can be placed.”


Several days later in response to that article, I wrote to my councilman, Mr. George Cole, pointing out that feather flags create hazards to motorists because they: 1] obscure traffic signs as well as street and property addresses; 2] interfere with line of sight at entrances/exits of commercial enterprises; 3] distract motorists because the movement of the flags increases time needed to comprehend the message; 4] distract motorists because the direction of the wind often causes the “back” sides of the flags to display the mirror image of the wording on the “front” side, increasing time needed to comprehend the message; and 5] create dangerous conditions because high winds or driving rains can uproot them and send them on to bus/bike lanes and beyond.


I sent a copy of my letter to Mr. MacArthur.  Never got so much as an acknowledgement from Mr. Cole.

Posted by: Joan Deaver | Aug 14, 2013 16:49

Now that 13 people have lost their lives on Rt. 1, between Nassau & Dewey, this year would you want to allow the feather flags or not?

Posted by: Barry Wayne Price | Aug 15, 2013 07:41

Visual pollution. Plain and simple.

Now - how about business trucks with signage displayed on the side and parked at the end of a driveway next to a major road? Is this circumventing the law?

Posted by: Thomas Adams | Aug 15, 2013 18:08

Thank you Joan Deaver for reviving the issue of feather flags located right next to major roadways, which directly relates to pedestrian/bike safety on Route 1.  I hope this issue can be addressed by the task force.


Pssst!  Are you reading this George Cole?  Do you plan to attend the next meeting?  I was so disappointed that you did not attend the first one and did not send anyone to represent District 4.

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