Burton, Cole say resident's comments have merit

Sussex officials want more information on public notices
January 18, 2018

At times, Paul Reiger feels like he's beating his head against a wall when he points out issues to Sussex County officials. A frequent speaker during public comment periods, Reiger spoke at the Jan. 2 meeting about public notices.

Reiger, who lives near Georgetown, compared Sussex County's notices to several other jurisdictions, pointing out the county's notices are lacking in information.

Now, it appears county council may be listening.

At council's Jan. 9 meeting, Council members I.G. Burton, R-Lewes, and George Cole, R-Ocean View, asked county staff to explore ways to provide more information on public notices especially for board of adjustment meetings, but for all meetings if warranted.

“His comments had merit. I think more information is required to provide some clarity on notices for area residents,” Burton said.

Burton said when a setback variance is requested, the public should know specifically what the variance is for. That information is not provided in county public notices.

Sussex County Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said more information than was previously provided is now posted – including code sections – on notices. But, she said, posting specific information on some applications with setback variances could raise problems.

She said sometimes the setback variance or variances requested are subject to change by the time a meeting occurs. Putting incorrect or incomplete information in a public notice would nullify the notice and force another public hearing, adding to the applicant's and county's costs.

“With setbacks we don't have much specificity, but we do list specifics with other variances and special-use exceptions,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson.

In addition, Cornwell said, longer public notices in area newspapers cost more.

Cole said if it's a budget issue, he wants staff to tell council how much it would cost.

“I don't think it would break the bank. More information is better,” Cole said.

Cornwell and Lawson said they would get back to council with ideas to provide more information.