Bicycle and skateboard ordinance removed from city code; sprinklers optional

Terry RogersGovernment, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

Milford City Council has eliminated its bicycle and skateboard code, relying instead on state law

At a recent meeting, Milford City Council completely removed their bicycle and skateboard restrictions, deciding to use state code to address any issues with those modes of transportation. At the same meeting, council decided to make sprinklers optional in city code. Both subjects had been part of lengthy discussions at previous meetings and workshops.

“It is our hope that we could adopt the updates to the building code without the sprinkler requirement,” City Manager Mark Whitfield said. “That way we can work on the sprinkler requirement in the future to clarify how we want it done, but it is critical that we adopt the other parts of the code to be in line with Sussex County building codes.”

City Planner Rob Pierce explained that the new wording in the code would allow the city to look into ways of incentivizing sprinklers rather than simply requiring them. Councilman Todd Culotta agreed, stating that there was little discussion about other sections of the updated code, only about the requirement for sprinklers. Councilman Jason James asked Pierce to explain in layman’s terms what the change to the code meant.

“In the building code there is a section that requires an automatic sprinkler system shall be installed in townhomes,” Pierce said. “What we would recommend is replacing the word “shall” with “may.” That way if someone elects to install a sprinkler system, we have a code to follow to be sure it is properly installed. If we remove that requirement completely, we lose some of the guidance with how it needs to be installed.”

Councilman Mike Boyle pointed out that he thought there would be more discussion on the sprinkler system, suggesting that staff not push this idea into the background.

“Rather than this becomes something we get to, I’d like to see a commitment to get this done maybe in the next quarter,” Councilman Boyle said. “I would like to see it brought back up while it is still fresh and give this the discussion it needs.” Council voted unanimously to adopt the new codes with the changes in wording to the sprinkler section.

In addition to the sprinkler issue, Whitfield explained that after talking to the police department, staff found that the entire bicycle and skateboard ordinance could be deleted from city code.

“One of the issues is that everything within the ordinance is actually within state law,” Whitfield said. “We use the state law anyway if there are people with skateboards who jump and slide across wood or concrete and cause damage. That is actually criminal mischief, and they can be fined on the spot for that. We also had Melody do some checking and we are only one of two municipalities who have a bicycle ordinance. The other was Rehoboth Beach who has restrictions on the use of bicycles certain times of the day on the boardwalk. All other cities use the state code.”

Councilman James pointed out that, during the last discussion, it was brought up that more adults can be seen on skateboards in Milford. Since that last discussion, he observed that that statement held true, commenting that he had seen far mor adults on skateboards than children.

“I saw an adult the other day doing those things with the skateboard where you flip it around and land back on it,” Councilman Andy Fulton said. “He had to have been in his mid-30s and I was just thinking I’d give myself a broken hip. Mind you, he made me nervous. Again, it wasn’t a teenager doing this. These are the people who grew up with skateboards doing those tricks and now they are in their late 30s.”

Deletion of the bicycle and skateboard ordinance was approved unanimously.

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