County introduces update to special-events ordinance

The Sussex County Council at its Tuesday council meeting introduced a draft ordinance related to special events.

Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson said most of the draft ordinance remains the same as the existing ordinance. Those who wish to host a special event would go into the Planning & Zoning office for a permit or would have to apply for a conditional use.

The draft ordinance allows for three special events to be held on a given property in a calendar year, the duration of which could not exceed three days, which does not include setup and cleanup.

Elements to be considered by the office when approving permits would include the parcel location, size, parking, connecting roads and traffic, et cetera.

“Those are not mandatory things; those are just a list of things to be considered… We’re trying to keep it simple and give some guidance.”

Councilman George Cole asked if there could be an appeal process if an event is denied a permit. Robertson said the applicant could go to the Board of Adjustment or apply for a conditional use.

Cole also asked if there would be an application for the property owner to fill out, which neighbors could review if they requested.

“Through the implementation of it is that we would come up with an application form,” said Robertson.

“I get concerned about not having enough documentation,” said Cole.

Councilman Rob Arlett asked if it would be possible to digitally attach the application to the parcel information on the County’s website. Robertson said he wasn’t on the technical side but didn’t see how it couldn’t be possible to do that.

Cole said he reviewed the policy of a coastal resort county in Florida that classifies events by major and minor with regard to the number of people who are involved, using 200 people as a threshold of classifying an event as a major event.

“What do you consider a major event? Two-hundred people? Five-hundred people,” asked Councilman Sam Wilson.

“In the application found in this other county … it required the approval of their county council,” Cole said of major events, noting that he was not advocating for a 200-person threshold.

“I think we’re already getting out of hand,” said Wilson.

Councilman I.G. Burton said the ordinance is not about a specific parcel of land, but an ordinance for all of Sussex County.

“I really think we should encourage simplicity,” Burton said, noting that he believes events below a certain threshold should not have to seek a permit. “A special event should be when it hits” a certain number, he said.

The council introduced the ordinance on Oct. 3, and it will go before the Planning & Zoning Commission for a public hearing on Oct. 26. The item come back before the council in November.