Architects are being run out of business

January 21, 2014

Here we are - its 2014 and Sussex County is still living in 1914.  In some ways that is very sweet.  I love this place or I would have left six years ago when I realized what was going on and that I had no power to stop it.  Small architectural offices are very unique and almost gone because of the discrimination that Sussex County Council has allowed to prevail.

I began working to enforce the Delaware codes in 1990 and have only begun to see some light as I read Ron MacArthur’s front page report that indicates just how far from reality our officials, their consultants, and our county council is today.

They all still think that engineers are architects and our building departments in Sussex County all follow the lead of the Sussex County Building Code Department in that. Even county council’s attorney apparently has no clue as to what the prevailing codes say.  To quote the Dec. 30 headline article, “As long as the plans comply with all building codes, the staff can sign off. Beyond that, an engineer would have to sign off.”  No, no and he is totally incorrect!!!

The Delaware code is and has been quite clear on the above since I began my campaign to have it enforced here.  Moreover, it has been basically the law of the land in this country since about 1950.  Architects seal buildings, not engineers.  Engineers are consultants to us.  Building departments issue building permits based on our seals.  No code official has the right to seal drawings.  Engineers have no right to seal building plans unless they are an insignificant part of an engineering project.

I visited the Architectural Registration Board on this subject in 1995 and realized that their primary duty is to keep architects in line, not to actually help us. After many letters and lots of resistance, an architect friend in Wilmington suggested that I write the Delaware Attorney General.

So now we have just a little traction as the truth comes out from our officials.
The Cape Gazette article reveals just how bad it is. Official statements here reveal just what Robert Stickles, David Baker, and now County Administrator Todd Lawson have always believed.  We just don’t need professionals here in southern Delaware. Our builders and developers are really smart people and they can design our buildings. By letting them do that, we are saving the people money.  Who cares if their buildings are unsafe, inefficient, dysfunctional and ugly?

In 1968, before we had any laws regulating virtually any professionals and I was a draftsman at O.A. Newton in Bridgeville, Calvin Clendaniel was our sole architect. Sussex County respected him...treated him well.  He did not compete with draftsmen.  Calvin was well compensated and respected.  Today, we have laws that discriminate against us and officials are doing their best to keep us out of work. However, we have an AG and they will comply even as they bite and kick us. There may only be a couple of us left, but we are watching. I am not going away folks.

James Robert Clark
Architect/ Planner Inc.

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