Proposal would allow billboards at designated US 113 intersections in Millsboro

MILLSBORO — Off-premise outdoor advertising in the Town of Millsboro’s highway commercial district is under the microscope.

If an ordinance is adopted don’t expect billboards or electronic message centers to be popping up everywhere.
A potential highway overlay district ordinance that would allow billboards and electronic message centers will likely be restricted to two specific intersections — US 113 and SR 20 — on the northern and southern sides of Millsboro.

That was the consensus of Millsboro’s town council following a presentation by Kyle Gulbronson, the town’s consultant from AECOM, during the Aug. 5 council meeting.

Council backed vice mayor Tim Hodges’ recommendation to identify intersections — Hardscrabble Road/SR 20 and US 113 on the northern side of town and Dagsboro Road/SR 20 and US 113 on southern side – rather than by a maximum distance from the town’s outer limits.

As presented by Mr. Gulbronson, billboards and EMCs would be permitted “within 1,500 feet of the outer boundary of the town of the Millsboro” at the time the application was accepted.

“With the restriction that you put in here that it has to be within a certain distance of the edge of town, that is a lot different than we had discussed,” said Mr. Hodges.

“The idea behind it originally was at certain intersections, where the traffic was and where the traffic had slowed down. We don’t want to distract. Drivers are stopped there.”
“If you would feel more comfortable, we could specifically list those intersections,” said Mr. Gulbronson.
“I would feel better about that. We are at the stage now where there is a lot of parcels that need to come into town,” said Mr. Hodges.

“My concern is as the border of town shifts as the town grows then we’re going to work our way away from those intersections. I think it’s a moving target that we don’t need. It’s just going to add confusion.”

Mr. Hodges also recommended parcel size be two acres, not five, as was presented.
Any existing billboard “grandfathered” in would not be impacted by a new overlay ordinance for several years. “They are grandfathered through 2026,” said Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson.

In creating the pre-draft language, Mr. Gulbronson said ordinances from Massachusetts were reviewed along with Sussex County’s revised signage code as to how the county deals with billboards and electronic message centers.

“We took the best of all of those and crafted something that we think would work specifically for Millsboro to protect the town but also would allow these uses in key locations in town,” Mr. Gulbronson said.

As presented, the parcel where the billboard or EMC:
• Must be at least 1,000 feet from any property line abutting a public park, playground or religious institution, cemetery, school or parcels zoned open space;
• Must be located 500 feet from any residentially zoned property;
• Signage must not be attached to any building and must not be located within a utility easement or right of way;
• Cannot be located on a bridge or overpass;
• Billboard or EMC cannot exceed 35 feet in height;
• Parcel must be located not more than 400 feet from the right of way of US 113;
• An EMC can’t be any closer than 2,500 from an existing or a new message center.

“There are quite a few restrictions on where these can actually take place,” said Mr. Gulbronson, noting that this proposal would offer only a “handful of parcels in town. I think it gives some provision, too, for growth in the town as we travel north or south.”

Streaming-type video would not be allowed, and conditions/regulations would govern timing and flashing in message/advertisement transition “so it is not a hazard to the traveling public,” Mr. Gulbronson said.

Under the possible draft ordinance, a billboard or EMC could be located not directly off US 113.

“Anything proposed cannot be located further than 400 feet from the roadway of Rt 113. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on a parcel abutting US 113. It could be close by,” Mr. Gulbronson said.

Mr. Hudson noted that some areas identified on the south side at that intersection are not yet in town.

“But this is also planning for the future. We’re trying to make sure the ordinance is written in such a way that as those areas come into town we’re ready to go – assuming they come into town,” said Mr. Hudson, adding the town has heard from about five parties with interest regarding the proposed ordinance.

There would setback minimums. Signage may be double-sided and overall size would be 300 square feet for a two-lane roadway, and 600 square feet for a billboard or EMC along a four-lane road. These suggested signage match those in Sussex County’s billboard/EMC code.
Under the proposal, the US 113/SR 24 intersection would be excluded in the overlay.

“Route 24 wouldn’t play into that based on the separation distances that we have here,” Mr. Gulbronson said. “I think that is the reason that language was put in there, to eliminate that Rt. 24/Rt. 113 intersection from that.”

At some point, Delaware Department of Transportation’s plans for a cloverleaf bypass and connector road linking US 113/SR 20 on the north side to SR 24 just west of the Mountaire Farms plant could factor into the equation.

“The only concern I have is not knowing what DelDOT is doing with the bypass. That will be another new state highway. That area is in our annexation growth area so eventually that is going to be in town,” said Mr. Gulbronson.

Any ordinance proposal would require a public hearing as well as the blessing of DelDOT, in addition to town council.

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