Acknowledging the wishes of state firefighters, Kent County Levy Court commissioners establish a 28-foot requirement for street width in new subdivisions.

    After a Sept. 22 Levy Court meeting, more than 55 firefighters came a step closer to accomplishing a goal they’d been working toward since 2006.

    At the urging of local fire stations, Levy Court commissioners approved an ordinance that would set a minimum street width of 28 feet for residential subdivisions. The measure is meant to ensure that fire trucks, which have gotten larger in size over the years, can reach homes during an emergency.

    Levy Court President P. Brooks Banta said the firemen held several meetings with the state Department of Transportation, and last year, the state had “side stepped the issue” by not changing the minimum road width from 22 feet.

    “We’re here because the state failed in that respect,” Banta said.

    Tucker Dempsey of Dover, a former president of the Delaware State Fire Chief's Association, said the fire fighters were “not unaware” of the other issues created by larger roads, such as storm water management troubles and the likelihood that drivers will travel faster on the streets.

    “The apparatus size is not something we can control,” Dempsey said. “Because of regulations, in an area like this, we can’t go any smaller.”

    Having wider streets is especially important in subdivisions, where cars often park along the side of the road, Dempsey said.

    “You can say that we’re not going to have street parking,” Dempsey added. “But the state police don’t have the time and the manpower to enforce those restrictions.”

    Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Clayton, also urged the county to pass the measure and pointed out that Smyrna, Dover and Felton possess wider street requirements than mandated by the state.

    “Current fire-fighting apparatuses are longer and wider than their previous counterparts,” Ennis said. “When these ladder trucks have the stabilization jacks extended, they use even more pavement.”

    The Levy Court ordinance calls for streets in major subdivisions to have a width of “28 feet, exclusive of curbing and gutters” and will be used on future subdivision projects that are submitted to the county.

    Commissioner Eric Buckson said he appreciated DelDot’s lack of opposition to the measure and that there would be no enemies as the county moved forward with enforcing the ordinance.

    “In the end, this is a good thing,” Buckson added. “This is going to build better and safer communities.”

In other business:

    Levy Court approved a policy that establishes 13 paid holidays for county employees. Previously, the county had used the holidays set by the state legislature, and when the state replaced two holidays with floating vacation days this year, the county decided to set its own policy.

    The holidays for county employees will include Memorial Day, Labor Day, the day after Christmas and Thanksgiving.

    The county also has set an Oct. 13 public hearing on a new street lighting district for the Weatherstone Crossing housing subdivision. The annual cost for street lighting services will be approximately $106 per lot, and this estimate includes $93 for lighting services provided by Delaware Electric Cooperative and a $13.50 Kent County administrative fee for the 2010 fiscal year.

  Email staff writer Elaine Hughes at