RG# 6150

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In the early eighteenth century, a settlement was formed where the Smyrna River intersected the Kings Road; known as Salisbury, it was later renamed Duck Creek Village. Another settlement, called Duck Creek Landing, was formed on the river to the east of Duck Creek Village in more navigable waters. In 1768, Samuel Ball purchased eighteen acres of land a mile to the south of Duck Creek Village where the Kings Road intersected the road to Chestertown, Maryland. Lots were laid out and by the 1790s, this intersection was the commercial nucleus of a town known first as Duck Creek Crossroads. The first mention of the town in the laws of Delaware was in 1806 at which time the town was re-named Smyrna.1


The Four Corners, Smyrna, De


1800 – 1849

In 1817, a law was enacted called “An Act to survey, layout and regulate the streets of Smyrna, and for other purposes.” This law legally established a Town of one-half mile on each side centered on the intersection of the Old Kings Road from Dover to Wilmington with the road from Head of Chester (now Chestertown) to the Landing on Duck Creek. Male freeholders of the Town over the age of 21 could vote to elect the Town’s officials. Three Commissioners, an Assessor and a Treasurer were to be elected to serve a one-year term. The Commissioners were charged with the laying out, repair, and removal of any obstructions within the streets of the Town. Taxes were to be levied on real property in just and equal proportions to defray the costs of this work. Each Commissioner was declared to be a conservator of the peace, and as such, they were also charged with preventing nuisances within the Town.2 In 1825, new Commissioners were appointed to review the work of the prior Commissioners in laying out the streets and compensating property owners for any land taken in this process. The law also revised the procedures for the Town’s elections.3 A year later, the 1825 law was overturned when the appointed Commissioners were replaced with five new Commissioners and the revised procedures on the election process were repealed. In addition, a Treasurer was appointed to take the place of the elected official who had died.4 An 1945 law authorized the Commissioners along with the Justice of the Peace and the Constables of Kent County who resided in the Town to “suppress riotous, turbulent, disorderly or noisy assemblages or gatherings of negroes, mulattos or other persons in the streets of the Town after dark or on the Sabbath,” as well as “to prevent bonfires, suppress and prevent the firing of guns, and making and throwing of fireballs.” The Commissioner’s authority over streets was extended to footpaths, and they were able to enact regulations related to the standing of carts, carriages, and other vehicles and to enforce the removal of obstructions. The law stated that there were now to be five Commissioners instead of three, and that the Commissioners could appoint a Constable.5 In 1849, the Commissioners were authorized to appoint a Tax Collector, and also to build a jail for the use of the Town.6


1850 – 1899

Beginning in 1852, the Commissioners were authorized to lay gutters to carry off water and to place gravel, sand or earth on footpaths and flagstones at street crossings. When such improvements were made on private property, the property owner was to bear the cost, and if not paid, then the Commissioners could sell the property owner’s “goods and chattals” to recover these costs.7 In 1855, the Town’s boundaries were extended a quarter mile in each direction, and new streets could be opened if ten of the Town’s citizens petitioned for this action. The Town’s Commissioners were authorized to begin to pave the streets with the costs borne by the property owners in accordance with procedures laid out in the Act. The number of Commissioners was increased from five to seven.8 Two years later, a law required that the Levy Court of Kent County allocate $150 towards the repair of the streets. The law also included additional procedures related to laying out streets and required that lamps be purchased to light them. Taxes were now to be assessed against all male citizens who were 21 or over, whether or not they were freeholders.9  

In 1859, an act of incorporation as the “Commissioners of the Town of Smyrna” consolidated the various laws governing the Town which had been enacted since 1917. The boundaries of the Town were cited as being marked on a plot in accordance with the 1855 law which extended its boundaries. All free white males who had paid their tax assessment were permitted to cast a vote in elections. Elections were to be held for seven Commissioners, an Assessor, and a Treasurer, each of which was to serve a one-year term. The Commissioners were to be the overseers of laying out and maintaining the Town’s streets and the Levy County Kent County was to provide $150 to assist them in carrying out this task. The process for laying out new streets was discussed in detail as was the manner in which the costs of the paving of streets and installing gutters and walkways was to be recoveredIn addition, the Commissioners were authorized to regulate activities within the streets, and to see that all obstructions were removed from them. As required by an 1845 law, it was the responsibility of the Commissioners along with local Justices of the Peace and Constables to maintain peace and order within the Town, and as authorized in 1849, they could maintain a suitable jail. The Assessor was to make an annual assessment of all real estate, and also of all white, male citizens of age 21 or over and their personal and real possessions. It was the responsibility of the Commissioners to establish a tax rate which would raise sufficient funds to maintain the Town and the responsibility of the Treasurer to ensure that the taxes assessed were equitably applied to all taxpayers as well as to carry out the collection of these monies. The act granted the Commissioners the option of appointing a Tax Collector to assist the Treasurer in carrying out this duty.10  

In 1869, a law was enacted which provided for the election of a Town Alderman, who was to be awarded powers similar to a Justice of the Peace. In addition, the procedures in the incorporating act for extending, widening or opening streets were revised to require twenty freeholders to petition for this action. The law also provided authorization for the Commissioners to borrow up to $10,000 by issuing bonds.11 In 1883, the amount that the Town could borrow was increased to $20,000, but only with the concurrence of two-thirds of the Commissioners. A referendum was to be scheduled in order to determine if the Commissioners could condemn land to be used for installing a water system; the referendum was not approved.12 Two years later, the 1883 law was repealed and a more comprehensive law related to installing a water system vested the Commissioners with the power and authority to provide water for domestic use and for the suppression of fires. They were to locate, construct and operate a water works, purchase hose and a horse carriage, lay pipes to distribute the water, and establish receivers, reservoirs, and fire hydrants. They were authorized to purchase land to allow for the distribution of the water and given the authority to condemn land for this purpose, if needed. Bonds in the amount of $20,000 were to be issued to cover the cost of the work and a special tax was to be levied to pay interest on the bonds and establish a sinking fund to redeem the bonds when due. Water rents were to go towards maintenance of the water works with any surplus applied to interest on the bonds. The 1885 law was subject to referendum approval in which all property owners could vote but the voting was weighted so that a taxpayer cast one vote for each $1or part thereof, that was paid in property taxes.13 The 1885 referendum was approved and the water works constructed. In 1887, an additional $8,000 in bonds was authorized to cover the cost of extending the water mains and for putting in an additional boiler and pumps at the waterworks. A tax was to be levied to allow the Town to repay the debt. Another law in 1887 required that the Kent County Levy Court allocate $400 towards the repair of the streets and changed the terms of the Town’s Commissioners from one year to three years.14 An 1889 law made some clarifications to the laws enacted in 1885 and 1887,15 and two years later, additional technical corrections and clarifications were made to the earlier laws. The 1891 law also relieved owners of manufacturing plants from paying property taxes on these structures.16 In 1893, the Commissioners were authorized to construct drains and lay sewer pipes that were adequate to provide proper drainage in the Town, and to establish an electric plant to furnish electricity for private use as well as lights for the streets. This work was to be accomplished by issuing $25,000 in bonds and as with the water system, a special tax was to be levied to repay the yearly interest on the bonds and to establish a sinking fund adequate to redeem the bonds. All revenue from fees associated with these facilities was to be applied towards their maintenance. There were to be two special elections held on separate days, one to get approval of the sewer project and one for the electrical project; the voting was weighted and tied to the amount of property taxes paid; female property owners could vote by proxy.17  

In 1897, the Town of Smyrna was reincorporated as the “Town of Smyrna” with boundaries that were marked by boundary stones. The Town Council of Smyrna continued to be composed of seven members and was to be divided into six districts in order to provide equal representation with one Councilman residing in districts one through five and two Councilmen in district six. The Town’s districts were divided as follows:  

  • District One – East of Main Street, both north and south of Commerce Street;
  • District Two – South of South Street, west of Main and east of Union Street;  
  • District Three – South of Commerce Street, north of South Street and east of Union Street;  
  • District Four – North of Commerce Street and south of Mt. Vernon Street between Main Street and Union; 
  • District Five – West of Main Street, north of Mt. Vernon Street and east of Union Street; and  
  • District Six – West of Union Streetboth the north and south of Commerce Street. 

This indicated that most of the Town’s population resided between Main Street and Union Street and that to the east and west of this central population area, more residents resided to the west of Union than east of Main. Elections were to be held annually for the Town’s Councilmen, Assessor and Treasurer who were all required to be property owners and would serve for a year. Electors were those males who had reached the age of 21 and who had paid their most recent Town taxes. The Assessor and Treasurer were elected at-large, but each elector could vote for a Councilman only from the district in which they resided. The Council was to meet twice each month and at their first meeting each year, they were to elect a President to preside at Council meetings and to be responsible for ensuring that Council responsibilities were carried out, a Clerk to record the minutes of each meeting, a Tax Collector, and an Alderman who was to possess the powers of a Justice of the Peace. The Council could also appoint as many Constables as was deemed necessary to act as the Town’s police force and could enact ordinances for the governance of the Town. The Alderman was authorized to impose a fine if citizens did not comply with the Town’s ordinancesWithin the purview of the Council’s responsibilities were preserving the health of the Town; preventing the introduction of infectious or contagious diseases; keeping of dogs and regulating their running at large; regulating the streets of the Town; determining the boundaries of, altering, extending, widening, lay outing of streets; determining the drainage of streets, squares, lanes and alleys; directing the width of and paving or graveling of footpaths; providing for the making of gutters and the placing of gutter stones and of curbing; prescribing the extent of steps, porches and cellar doors; and regulating the construction, repair and cleaning of chimneys. The Town was to receive $400 from the Levy Court of Kent County to assist in the maintenance of existing streets. Taxes were to be equitably assessed against all male citizens above the age of twenty-one. Whereas earlier laws did not specify the maximum amount that the Council could assess in taxes annually on the citizens of the Town, the 1897 law set the total at no more than $4,000.18 Two years after the Town was re-incorporated, the month in which elections were to be held was changed from March to February.19 


1900 – 1949

In 1903, Smyrna was authorized to issue $6,000 in bonds for the improvement of their water and electric plants. As with earlier bond issues, a special tax was to be levied to redeem the bonds.20 In 1905, in order to benefit from lower interest rate on bonds, the Town redeemed $45,000 in bonds that had been issued in 1885 and 1893 at 6% and issued $34,000 in bonds at 4%.21 A 1909 law authorized the Town Council to expend no more than $25,000 in order to pave and grade streets in the Town; the costs were to be apportioned between the Town and property owners. The property owners were to be bear the cost of the paving or re-paving, as well as the curbing and guttering for the linear feet of their property which abutted the street to a depth of three feet towards the center; the Town was responsible for all remaining costs. Property owners could make installment payments for their share of the costs, but if they fell delinquent, then the entire amount was due immediately.22 In 1911, the Kent County Levy Court increased its allocation for street maintenance to $8,000.23 Two years later, a law increased the maximum amount of property taxes that the town could assess to $5,000.24 A 1917 law revised the 1909 law as to how the cost of the street paving would be charged to property owners. They were now to be charged for all costs along the linear feet of their property from the edge to the center of the street rather than for just three feet of street as previously, and the Town was only to incur the costs associated with the intersections. No referendum was required for this change.25 In 1919, authorization was given by law to borrow $35,000 with which to purchase machinery, equipment and supplies for lighting and for furnishing power to the Town for commercial purposes. Bonds were to be issued in this amount with a special tax levied to pay the yearly interest and establish a sinking fund. Before initiating this project, referendum approval was required.26 A year later, an additional $10,000 was needed to complete this work with approval required under the same terms as in 1919.27 In 1921, an additional $15,000 was to be borrowed and while no purpose was specified in the law, it is likely that it was for the project approved in 1919. A second law in 1921, removed the word male from the Town’s Charter, thus providing gender equality in Town law.28 In 1923, the division of the Town into Council districts was abolished, the number of Council members was decreased from seven to five, and their terms were increased from one year to two. Voting was opened to all citizens of the Town over the age of twenty-one as long as they had paid their Town taxes.29 In 1925, two laws were enacted related to the governance of the Town. The first law indicated that various improvements and needs might make it necessary for the Town to borrow money and so authority was given to borrow up to $65,000 against the credit of the Town and to issue bonds. If bonds were issued, a special tax was to be levied so that the Town would be able to pay the yearly interest on the bonds and to establish a sinking fund sufficient to redeem the bonds when due. In addition, a referendum was required prior to taking this action. The second law related to the $34,000 in twenty-year bonds that had been issued in 1905. As the Town did not have sufficient monies to redeem the bonds, they refunded and reissued them. The law required that the Town now levy taxes sufficient so that such action would not be required in the future.30 Similarly, in 1927, bonds issued in 1920 for $10,000 and in 1921 for $15,000 were refunded and reissued. In the same year, a law revised the Town’s Charter to allow the Town Council to grant franchises to corporations, entering into contracts with them to allow for the use the Town’s streets when furnishing public utilities such as light, heat, power or water to its citizens. Before any real property currently in use for public utilities could be sold to a private company, the Town Council was required to hold a referendum to receive approval of this action. In addition, the law provided for companies which supplied public utilities to be exempted from Town taxes.31 In 1929, the Town borrowed $50,000 under the terms approved in the 1925 law which authorized such borrowing. No purpose was given for this action, but referendum approval was required.32  

In 1929, the Town of Smyrna was once again re-incorporated. The boundaries of the Town were noted as being marked by boundary stones. The number of Town Council members remained at five and annually, they were to elect one of their members as President, Secretary and Clerk. The duties of the President were specifically described but had not essentially changed from the prior Charter. The Secretary now had the duties which previously were those of the Clerk and the Clerk’s duties were undefined. Meetings of the Council continued to be held twice monthly and the Charter specifically indicated that a majority ruling of the Council was the same as a unanimous ruling. Other Town officials included a Treasurer and a Board of Assessment who were elected, and an Alderman and Tax Collector, positions to be held by the same person who was to be appointed. The list of responsibilities of the Council was expanded from those contained in the 1897 Charter. These new duties included preventing the storage of dangerous and combustible substances; preventing and removing fire and explosion hazards in buildings; constructing, extending and maintaining water mains and hydrants; regulating the location, depth, and grade of all water and sewer mains; regulating and controlling pedestrian, automobile, and animal-drawn traffic in the streets; regulating the keeping of pigs and hogs; and prohibiting bonfires and fireworks and the firing of firearms. This Charter also provided the Council with the authority to levy business licenses fees and to regulate the operation of public utilities; to tax gas and water mains, underground conduits, and telephone, telegraph and electric light poles and wires; and to enact ordinances for fire protection including the prohibition of certain building materials if they were deemed to create a fire hazard and condemnation and removal of buildings deemed to be a fire menace. The Town Charter vested the Council with the full power and authority to provide water, sewer, and electric current to the residents of the Town. A complete assessment of all taxable real and personal property was to be carried out every three years with assessments of only that for which the conditions had changed in the intervening years. The Charter limited the Town Council to collecting a maximum of $15,000 in Town taxes; however, each year, a Town meeting was conducted to determine if additional sums should be levied for any specific purpose, but no request could be approved without the approval of the Town’s taxpayers. This vote allowed each taxpayer one vote for each $1 or fraction thereof, paid in taxes. In addition to the Town taxes, a yearly poll tax, was to be assessed against all persons, both male and female, residing in the Town of age twenty-one years and older. All taxes were to be assessed equitably against all taxpayers; however, the Council had the power to provide relief or exemption to any person involved in a manufacturing business employing not less than six persons or a company involved in the distribution of water, gas, electric current or other service commodity deemed necessary for the best interests of the Town’s citizens. The Charter authorized the Town Council to borrow up to $10,000 a year to be re-paid out of the Town’s general funds within four years.33  

In 1933, having previously issued $164,000 in bonds at a rate of interest higher than the current rate at that time, the Town redeemed this indebtedness and refunded these at 5% interest. As with other laws related to authorizing issuing bonds, a special tax sufficient to make repayment was required. Because these were replacement bonds, no referendum was required.34 A 1934 law amended a section of the Town’s Charter adding a new section on tax liens which indicated that a tax lien would remain for three years from the date of the delivery of assessment and no longer.35 The following year, two laws were enacted related to the Town. The first amended the Charter, expanding the Town’s police powers; the second called for the redemption and refunding of $147,000 in bonds in order to reduce their rate of interest from 5% to 4%.36 In 1937, the Town Charter was revised to confer the powers and duties of the President of the Council on a Town Mayor. The number of Council members was reduced to four and they, along with the Mayor, were elected at large to serve two-year terms. In another revision to the Charter made the same year, the position of Alderman and Town Collector were made separate with the Town Collector to be elected in the same manner as the Council members, and the Alderman to be appointed to a oneyear term.37 In 1941, the Town was again authorized the Town to redeem and refund $110,000 in bonds; this time at 4% interest. In addition, a number of laws were enacted to revise the Town’s Charter. These laws clarified the powers of the Police outside the corporate limits of the Town; revised the qualifications required in order to serve as Mayor or a member of the Council and certain election proceduresadded the position of Town Manager to serve as Chief Administrative Officer who was to oversee all Town employees; and eliminated the position of Town Collector as the Town Manager was now responsible to collecting all Town revenues. The changes in the Charter related to the Town Manager required referendum approval before implementation.38 This referendum must have failed initially because four years later another law re-stated the provisions related to the Town Manager position with minor changes and called for another referendum.39 A minor change to the election process was made in 1947; and a second law that year authorized the Town to incur an additional $85,000 in indebtedness in order to fund a project to extend and improve the water and sewer system, the electric distribution system and the streets. As with similar laws which called for issuing bonds, there was a requirement that sufficient funds would be raised by special tax in order to ensure that their principal and interest would be repaid. Implementation of this law required referendum approval.40 


1950 – 1999

It appears that the referendum for the projects outlined in the 1947 law was not approved, as a law in 1951 authorized the Town to borrow up to $250,000 to establish a sewage disposal plant as well as to extend the water and sewer systems and the electric distribution system and the streets. Referendum approval was required before bonds could be issued for the work. A related law authorized the Town to acquire lands to be used for the sewage disposal plant, an electric sub-station and for any other municipal purpose; no referendum was tied to this law. A third law in 1951 made changes to the Charter related to the Mayor and his duties.41 In 1955, the Town Council was increased to six members, all elected at large, who once again were required to be property owners within the Town’s corporate limits. Another change to the Charter allowed the Town to borrow up to $20,000 as a floating loan. A separate law in that year provided for a pension for members of the Police.42 The next year, the issue of borrowing monies for the expansion of the sewer, electrical and streets was again addressed in a law which authorized borrowing up to $200,000 indicating that the 1951 law had not received referendum approval.43 A 1957 law specified the maximum rate of taxes that could be charged per taxpayer, limiting property tax to fifty cents per $100 of assessed value and the poll tax to no more than $5 per person.44 Three laws in 1961 clarified certain aspects of the Town’s Charter; elected officials were to be removed from office if they were no longer Town residents or if they were convicted of a crime; the boundaries of the Town that were described in the 1897 incorporation act were expanded to include certain lands owned by the State of Delaware; and a section was added to the 1929 Charter to establish a process for any further expansion of the Town’s boundaries.45 In 1970, the Town acquired a small piece of land from the State to be used as a pumping station.46 In 1971, the amount of funds that the Council could borrow in one fiscal year was changed to not exceed 1½% of the most current total taxable assessed property value and was not to exceed a total in aggregate of 6% of the same; repayment of the loan was required within ten years.47 A 1974 revision to the Charter increased the number of years for which a Council member was elected from two years to three years; the Mayor continued to serve a two-year term.48 A 1978 law allowed the Town Council to enact ordinances related to the registration of voters.49

The Town of Smyrna was once again re-incorporated in 1980 and awarded all powers possible for a municipal corporation. A list of thirty-five specific powers were listed but the enumeration of these particular powers was not deemed to be exclusive. All powers were vested in the Town Council unless otherwise provided by law. The Town continued to be governed by a Mayor and a Council composed of six members, all of whom were to be elected at large. While all elected officials had to reside within the corporate limits of Smyrna, they no longer were required to be a property owner. Their term of office remained two years for the Mayor and three years for the Council members. As Council members served staggered terms, elections were held annually and the minimum age to vote was now eighteen. Regulations as to the voting process, vacancies and forfeiture of office were discussed. The Mayor was to serve as the head of the Town government for all ceremonial purposes and was to preside at all Council meetings where he was counted as a Council member for purposes of majority and was allowed to vote. The Council meetings were still held twice monthly, and at the first Council meeting after each election, a Vice-Mayor and Secretary were to be elected from among the Council members. Town officials who were elected at large annually were the Town Treasurer and the Board of Assessment for which one member was subject to election annually, but which was increased to three members every third year when a full assessment was to be carried out. Town officials which were appointed for indefinite terms were the Town Manager, the Chief of Police, and the Deputy Treasurer. The Town Manager was responsible for the administration of all of the Town’s affairs, including the collection of taxes and all other revenue due to the Town including curb and sewer assessments, sewer and water charges and assessments, weed and grass cutting bills, electric charges and water rents. Taxes were now not to exceed 1% of the assessed value of all real estate subject to taxation in the Town to which the Town Council could add any additional amount that was necessary to repay the interest on bonds as well as monies for a sinking fund with which to redeem the bonds when due. The provision to hold a Town meeting each year in order to discuss and vote on any additional special taxes which might be needed was retained in this Charter. This Charter provided for a significant reduction of 6% if any resident’s taxes were paid early and a penalty of 1½% per month for late payment. The tax exemptions which were identified in the 1929 Charter were retained; to this was added tax exemptions for newly annexed territory. The process for making such an annexation was outlined in this Charter; annexation was allowed only if the area proposed for annexation was contiguous to the Town and if the majority of the owners of property approved of this action. Also incorporated into this Charter were the provisions related to borrowing monies as approved in 1971. The Charter also described how the Town Council would carry out its responsibilities regarding the streets, their curbing, paving and guttering, the water and sewer systems as well as the electric current and power plan; these responsibilities could be carried out through franchises. Additionally, the provisions contained in earlier Charters related to preventing obstructions, nuisances and unsanitary conditions were retained as part of the Charter. Finally, the Charter contained provisions related to the Police and the authority to maintain a jail.50

In 1989, the Town of Smyrna was authorized to initiate a tax of 1% of the amount of the selling price for each transfer of real estate within its Town limits.51 A 1990 law changed the election procedures to eliminate the requirement for a formal election process if only one candidate files for any elective office.52 In 1995, several changes were made to the Town’s Charter, of which the most significant were that the position of Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer were eliminated with the responsibilities of the Town Manager expanded to include those previously assigned to these Town officials, and that the Town Manager was responsible for employing and supervising most of the Town’s non-elective employees with two exceptions, the Board of Assessment which, while no longer to be elected, was to be appointed by the Mayor following the guidance in the 1980 Charter, and the Chief of Police who remained a Council-appointee and who was responsible for employing and supervising the officers who served under him.53 In 1995, a law clarified that while the Chief of Police had operational control of the Police Department and its employees, he/she was subordinate and answerable to the Town Manager. Among other smaller changes, the law also revised the 1980 Charter by making changes to the process for annexing land and to the assessment process and added a new section on subdivisions and land development that authorized the Town to regulate all land within its boundaries which was to be subdivided and allowed the Town to impose impact fees.54


2000 – Current

In 2002, a law was enacted which reversed the 1995 revisions to the Town Charter which made the Chief of Police subordinate and answerable to the Town Manager; the revised language made the Chief of Police responsible to the Mayor and Council for the proper administration of the Smyrna Police Department.55  

The most recent re-incorporation of the Town of Smyrna was in 2003As with the prior Charter, the Town’s powers were enumerated, to include both forty-seven specific powers and to allow for the list to be liberally construed so that the enumeration was to be deemed not exclusive. The Mayor and six-member Council constituted the Town’s elected officials and their qualifications for office, the procedures for their election, the election process and their duties and responsibilities were outlined in the Charter. New provisions called for the Town to be divided into three election districts of approximately equal population. Each district would be represented by a Council member who was a resident of the district; the Mayor and the other three Council members were to be elected atlarge. Each voter could cast a vote for one of the at-large candidates but the Council members which represented a specific district could only be elected by voters from that district. The Charter allowed for the possibility of creating additional representative districts. Town Council meetings continued to be held semi-monthly, chaired by the Mayor, with a Vice-Mayor and a Secretary chosen from among the members. Smyrna’s Town Manager, who was appointed by the Mayor and Council, was to be the Town’s chief administrative officer for all departments and functions except the Police Department for which the Council was to appoint a Chief who would be responsible for its administration. The Town Council was to appoint a Town Solicitor, and was authorized to appoint additional Town officials such as the members of a Board of Adjustment, a Board of Assessment, or a Planning and Zoning Commission and any other consultant as needed in order to carry out the Town’s business. The Town Council was to determine revenue needs and identify revenue sources including the amount that would be raised from each; all income and expenditures were subject to yearly audit. The assessed value of real estate could be established by a Board of Assessment through a process outlined in the Charter or by adopting the appraised values which had been established by the county; exemptions could be awarded if the Council determined that it would promote the public welfare. As in the prior Charter, taxation for general purposes was limited to no more than 1% of the assessed value of all taxable real estate, but additional tax could be levied in order to pay the interest on and provide for the retirement of bonds issued. The percentage of discount for prompt payment and penalty for late payment was allowed for but not specified in the Charter. The Charter authorized three types of borrowing power. Short term borrowing based on a need identified by the Council and secured only by the full faith and credit of the Town was limited to 1½% of the assessed value of the Town’s taxable real estate, did not require voter approval, and called for repayment within five years from the Town’s general funds. With the approval of a super-majority of the Council, the Town could borrow, with notice to the Town but without voter approval, up to 4½% of the assessed value of the Town’s taxable real estate for certain projects specifically named in the Charter; such a loan was to be secured by a promissory note payable within thirty years from the Town’s general funds. Long-term borrowing, for which voter approval was required, was limited to certain types of projects and advertised requests for this type of borrowing must indicate the amount to be borrowed as well as the intended use of the funds. For this type of debt, bonds would be issued, and a special tax would be required to ensure that interest could be paid annually and sufficient funds would be available to retire the bond when due. A total of the debt from these three types of borrowing was not to exceed 12% of the assessed value of the Town’s taxable real estate. Under certain circumstances and without voter approval, the Charter also allowed the Town to issue revenue bonds in which the revenue from the project would repay the bonds; these types of bonds were not to be included in the 12% cap on indebtedness as neither the faith or credit of the Town nor its taxing power were pledged towards their repayment. The Charter contained no mention of the real estate transfer tax which had been authorized in 1989. The Charter’s other provisions included sections on the Police Force; Subdivision and Land Development; Streets and Alleys; Construction, Paving and Repairing Streets; Sidewalks, Gutters and Curbs; Jetties, Bulkheads, Dams, Embankments and Boardwalks; Drainage; Water Systems; Sanitary Sewer Systems; Electric Generation and Distribution System; and Actions or Suits. Unlike the previous four Charters which cited the boundaries as being recorded on a map or marked with boundary stones, this Charter listed the specific metes and bounds of the Town citing a comprehensive description of the Town’s limits and the twenty-three outparcels within its boundary. The process for initiating the proceedings for future annexation and the process for conducting a special election to approve this action was outlined in detail.56 

A 2006 law made changes to the Charter related to appealing assessments.57 In 2008, Smyrna was authorized to implement Municipal Tax Increment Financing and Special Development Districts.58 A year later, the length of time allowed for a long-term loan was extended to forty years.59 Changes to the Charter in 2012 called for a number of revisions to the Charter. Among these were revisions to the section on elections and on those who held elective office which included a new provision for redistricting to take place every ten years upon the release of census data. In addition, the Mayor was provided with emergency powers allowing for him/her to act independently on behalf of the Town in certain emergency situations. There were also minor changes to the section of the Charter on the Town Manager position and the Board of Assessment. Renewable energy facilities, such as solar power, were added to the public utilities that the Town could construct and operate, directly or through franchises. The process for making annexations to the Town was revised and the description of the specific metes and bounds of the Town were eliminated from the text of the Charter, replaced once again by referencing the map on file with Kent County.60 A law in 2015 made additional minor revisions to the Charter.61 In 2015, all references to a Board of Assessment were eliminated from the Charter with the duties of the Board now to be carried out by a Tax Assessor. In addition, the term of repayment for short term borrowing was increased from five to fifteen years and the Town Manager was authorized to initiate borrowing under this clause of the Charter without seeking Council approval in an amount not to exceed $100,000.62 

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see http://charters.delaware.gov/smyrna.shtml



CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 4 Del. Laws, c. 1 (1806) [p. 3] 

2 5 Del. Laws, c. 129 (1817) [pp. 219-28] 

3 6 Del. Laws, c. 300 (1825) [pp. 552-55] 

4 6 Del. Laws, c. 363 and c. 364 (1826) [pp. 747-51 and pp. 751-52] 

5 10 Del. Laws, c. 12 (1845) [pp. 9-11] 

6 10 Del. Laws, c. 299 (1849) [pp. 288-89] 

7 10 Del. Laws, c. 680 (1852) [pp.686-87] 

8 11 Del. Laws, c. 280 (1855) [pp. 305-08] 

9 11 Del. Laws, c. 470 (1857) [pp. 548-52] 

10 11 Del. Laws, c. 670 (1859) [pp.772-81]   

11 13 Del. Laws, c. 474 (1869) [pp. 477-80] 

12 17 Del. Laws, c. 197 (1883) [pp. 396-97] 

13 17 Del. Laws, c. 564 (1885) [pp. 815-21] 

14 18 Del. Laws, c. 159 and c. 163 (1887) [pp. 257-58 and p. 287] 

15 18 Del. Laws, c. 639 (1889) [p. 813] 

16 19 Del. Laws, c. 239 (1891) [p. 475] 

17 19 Del. Laws, c. 764 (1893) [p. 1085-91] 

18 20 Del. Laws, c. 537 and c. 538 (1897) [pp. 624-46]  

19 21 Del. Laws, c. 99 (1898) [p. 237] 

20 22 Del. Laws, c. 424 (1903) [pp. 888-90] 

21 23 Del. Laws, c. 181 (1905) [pp. 311-13] 

22 25 Del. Laws, c. 186 (1909) [pp. 346-53] 

23 26 Del. Laws, c. 223 (1911) [p. 510] 

24 27 Del. Laws, c. 228 (1913) [p. 652] 

25 29 Del. Laws, c. 151 (1917) [pp. 471-78] 

26 30 Del. Laws, c. 132 (1919) [p. 294] 

27 31 Del. Laws, c. 34 (1920) [p. 88-89] 

28 32 Del. Laws, c. 126 and c. 127 (1921) [pp. 37-381] 

29 33 Del. Laws, c. 130 (1923) [pp. 353-56] 

30 34 Del. Laws, c. 129 and c. 130 (1925) [pp. 330-335] 

31 35 Del. Laws, c. 139 and c. 140 (1927) [pp. 456-61] 

32 36 Del. Laws, c. 191 (1929) [pp. 583-86] 

33 36 Del. Laws, c. 192 (1929) [pp. 587-628]  

34 38 Del. Laws, c. 123 (1933) [pp. 591-94] 

35 39 Del. Laws, c. 27 (1934) [p. 91] 

36 40 Del. Laws, c. 176 and c. 177 (1935) [pp. 656-59] 

37 41 Del. Laws, c. 166 and c. 167 (1937) [pp. 556-61] 

38 43 Del. Laws, c. 178, c. 179, c. 180, c. 181, and c. 182 (1941) [pp. 783-804] 

39 45 Del. Laws, c. 180 (1945) [pp. 673-81] 

40 46 Del. Laws, c. 244 and c. 276 (1947) [p. 673 and pp. 794-99] 

41 48 Del. Laws, c. 329, c. 330, and c. 335 (1951) [pp. 822-29 and pp. 847-48] 

42 50 Del. Laws, c. 472 and c. 551 (1955) [p. 1079 and p. 1282] 

43 50 Del. Laws, c. 578 (1956) [pp. 1324-29] 

44 51 Del. Laws, c. 241 (1957) [p. 495] 

45 53 Del. Laws, c. 31, c. 43, and c. 44 (1961) [p. 51, pp. 148-53] 

46 57 Del. Laws, c. 377 (1970) [pp. 1122-23] 

47 58 Del. Laws, c. 167 (1971) [pp. 425-26] 

48 59 Del. Lawsc. 421 (1974) [pp. 1481-85] 

49 61 Del. Laws, c. 388 (1978) [p. 1042] 

50 62 Del. Laws, c. 339 (1980) [pp. 759-86] 

51 67 Del. Laws, c. 146 (1989) [p. 353] 

52 67 Del. Laws, c. 196 (1990) [p. 424] 

53 70 Del. Laws, c. 68 (1995) [pp. 99-101] 

54 71 Del. Laws, c. 95 (1997) [pp. 203-06] 

55 73 Del. Laws, c. 227 (2002) [p. 534] 

56 74 Del. Laws, c. 176 (2003) [pp. 427-78] 

57 75 Del. Laws, c. 247 (2006) [p. 337] 

58 76 Del. Laws, c. 405 (2008) [vol. II, pp. 257-58] 

59 77 Del. Laws, c. 63 (2009) [vol. I, p. 63] 

60 78 Del. Laws, c. 339 (2012)  

61 80 Del. Laws, c. 98 (2015) 

62 81 Del. Laws, c. 294 (2018) 

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at: http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/  

Records at DPA

City of Smyrna records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Resolution for Annexation (1990-1991, 1995-1996) 6150-000-000 
  • Administrative Files (1972-1989) 6150-000-001 
  • Minutes of the Town Council (1845-1990) 6150-000-002 
  • Town Ordinances (1864-1904, 1961-1988) 6150-000-003 
  • Fire Hydrant Placement Maps (1993) 6150-000-004 
  • Property Records Cards (1956-1965) 6150-000-005 
  • Assessment Records (1901-1924, 1932-1942, 1987-1988) 6150-000-006 
  • School Tax Books (1902, 1905) 6150-000-007 
  • Annual Tax Books (1946-1975) 6150-000-008 
  • Street Improvement Account Book (1910-1912) 6150-000-009 
  • Disbursement Journal (1905-1928) 6150-000-010 
  • Electric Light Ledger (1904-1907) 6150-000-011 
  • Water Rent Ledger (1904-1912) 6150-000-012 
  • Financial Statements (1903, 1906, 1913, 1918, 1926, 1930-1934, 1939-1942) 6150-000-013 

jnl / May 14, 2020