Small Town News
We need signs-but orderly signs
The thick of the tourist season approaching reminds us that we are a serious resort and that our economy depends largely on people wanting to live here and visit. We all want to live and visit in a place that is functional and attractive.
In an area with so much going on, signs are an important source of information for commercial and recreational purposes. But when there are too many of them, stacked together in a disorderly fashion, chaos and confusion begin to defeat the original purpose.
This week, Sussex County planning officials began hearings on proposed revisions to the existing sign ordinance. From the visual perspective, few issues are more important
Revisions reducing the number of off-premise billboards from the current 17 per mile to five per mile-one every 1,000 feet-would bring a clear future benefit. Just as critically, eliminating all variances for billboard height and size would bring a sorely needed uniformity to permitted signage, level the playing field and at least slow down the escalation of higher and higher and bigger and bigger signs. These proposed revisions deserve quick action and implementation. The small, so-called bandit signs used by developers to promote weekend home sales on state rights-of-way are for the most part already illegal. The only way to truly eliminate those signs will be aggressive enforcement of the laws-including weekend patrols-and a stiffening of the fines so the costs associated with posting the signs far exceeds their advertising value.
The county in the meantime is still looking at possible changes to digital signs and their operation. Current law provides that messages and images on these signs cannot change more frequently than every eight seconds. Many digital sign owners ignore that provision designed to limit unsafe driver distraction.
While ordinance revisions will bring relief, the greatest positive impact Sussex officials can bring to bear is proactive enforcement of all of its sign laws. Without enforcement, and without ditching the impotent, complaint-driven enforcement philosophy, a frontier mentality toward posting and operating signs will persist and further diminish our quality of life.
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