Sussex County's tourism and jobs industry is temporarily safe
from declining after an unexpected obstacle Tuesday afternoon derailed a ruling on a proposed ordinance to limit the amount of events a venue can host in a year.
Concerned citizens and business owners packed the afternoon public hearing before the Sussex County council in Georgetown, hoping to voice their thoughts on the proposed special events ordinance and possibly hear a vote on the matter.
But a downtown-wide power outage just before 3:30 p.m. prevented the hearing from moving forward. County maintenance crews onsite running backup generators said the outage was caused by a transformer fire at the Georgetown apartments.
The special events ordinance hearing was the last item on the agenda, and the council was in the process of hearing the second-to-last agenda item prior to the outage.
The proposed special events ordinance seeks to limit venues to only host three events in a calendar year as well as require more permits to be obtained by venue owners.
Hudson Fields, located off Coastal Highway between Lewes and Milton, was at the center of the proposal and Tuesday's public hearing.
"We have about 45-50 events per year the way this bill is written and the new cap would only limit that to three," said Hudson Management's Christian Hudson. "First of all, it would make us pick and choose which charity or event we would hold. Right now, most of our events are nonprofits or amateur athletics programs for kids."
An economic impact analysis conducted by University of Delaware professor Bill Latham determined that Hudson Field's event business and charitable operations generated just over one million dollars this year.
Hudson told WRDE the company has never had complaints about hosting large-scale events until after partnering with Dewey Beach's Highway One Group to bring five summer music concerts to the area.
Highway One is locally known for booking award-winning music acts, such as blues guitarist Buddy Guy and country band Old Dominion, for its music venues in Dewey Beach.
The inaugural Hudson Fields concerts, according to Hudson Management, created over 300 jobs for locals and brought thousands of tourists to the area who shopped, dined and lodged locally.
Christian Hudson said the amount of tourists brought to the area as a result of the summer concerts pales in comparison to the amount attracted to past concerts the 18-acre venue has hosted.
In 1998, Hudson said a Chicago concert brought in around 17,000 people to Sussex County. A Beach Boys concert in 1997 brought in 20,000 people, and in the same year, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin brought in upwards of 25,000.
The special events proposal was introduced in the fall after a council member allegedly received complaints about noise, traffic and safety.
WRDE visited a neighborhood behind Hudson Fields Tuesday to speak to residents regarding any noise, traffic and safety issues brought on by the summer concerts. Few residents were in the neighborhood at the time, but one - who declined to go on camera or be identified - said the concerts did not cause any problems.
Christian Hudson questioned why the proposed revision of the special events ordinance was ever introduced.
"I really have to question who's driving the bus, because if there's nobody for it and a lot of people against this ordinance, then why is this even an ordinance?"
Shortly after the power outage, the county council continued to hear the remainder of the second-to-last item on the agenda in the dark before adjourning the meeting.
The council decided to postpone the special events ordinance public hearing which may not happen until late December or early January, as the county code mandates notifications must be sent to applicants or appellants at least 20 days before the date of the hearing.
A council member also stated before adjourning the meeting that the council likely would have deferred a ruling on the special events ordinance proposal anyway.
The power was restored just after 4:30 p.m.