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RG# 6010

 

Camden
RG 9015-028-000: Main and Commerce St. Camden c. 1908

In the eighteenth century, the Mifflin’s, a Quaker family, owned a large tract of land which included the intersection of the Kings Road from Dover with the road to Forest Landing (now Lebanon). In the 1780s Daniel Mifflin sold twelve lots near the crossing to form a farm hamlet called Piccadilly but more commonly referred to as Mifflin’s Crossroads. The village grew quickly and by 1820 was home to merchants, innkeepers, carriage makers, tanners, bricklayers, house carpenters, and physicians. Its current name, Camden, was in common use for the Town by the beginning of the nineteenth century.  

 

1850 – 1899

In 1852 the Town was first incorporated under the corporate name of “The Commissioners of Camden.” Male residents and unmarried female residents of the Town over the age of twenty-one were to elect three residents to serve as Commissioners. The Commissioners were then to hire a surveyor who would lay out the Town and file a plot with Kent County. The Commissioners were to meet four times a year to regulate and improve the streets; pave the sidewalks; plant ornamental trees along the streets; repair and make public water pumps; examine chimneys and stove-pipes; ensure that they were not fire hazards; suppress noisy or turbulent assemblages; and prevent public nuisances, such as the firing of guns and setting of bonfires. The Town officials to be appointed by the Commissioners included a Treasurer, an Assessor, a Tax Collector, an Alderman, a Town Constable, and a Town Clerk. Property owned by all males residing in the Town was to be assessed in order to levy taxes, the maximum amount of which was not to exceed $100 annually. Any owner of a dog was also charged a fee.1

In 1869, the 1852 Incorporating Act was repealed and Camden was re-incorporated. In addition to the three Commissioners, an Assessor and a Treasurer were to be elected, the Commissioners were each to serve a three-year term with one of them to be elected annually. Other officials were to serve for a renewable one-year term. The Town was to be re-surveyed with the provision that it was not to extend beyond a certain parcel to the west so as not to infringe upon land considered to be within the corporate limits of the Town of Wyoming. The primary duty of the Commissioners was to oversee and regulate the streets and roads within the Town. The Levy Court of Kent County was to allocate $100 to assist with street maintenance. If petitioned by ten citizens, the Commissioners were able to open new streets, providing a just compensation to those whose land they took to accomplish this. They were also to oversee the paving of the sidewalk and planting of shade trees as well as opening ditches and drains if petitioned by five or more citizens and draining any ponds of water or marshes which were deemed unhealthy. The Commissioners were assisted in keeping the peace and preventing nuisances by the state-appointed Justice of the Peace who would serve as the Alderman and by a Constable who they could appoint. They also had the authority to build and maintain a jail. The manner in which the Assessor would determine the amount of taxes owed was outlined in detail. The total amount of taxes for the Town was not to exceed $300 annually.2

In 1887, the Town’s Incorporating Act was amended to increase the number of Commissioners to five with at least three being freeholders among those chosen and with all serving a three-year term. In addition, the amount of tax that could be levied was increased to a maximum of $500 annually, and the annual allotment of monies the Town would be allocated by Kent County for road maintenance increased to $150.3

In 1889, the Town of Camden was re-incorporated. Having made amendments two years earlier to increase the number of Commissioners to five, this remained the same. Also, the limits of the Town were not changed from those noted in the 1869 Incorporating Act. In addition to the duties and powers provided for in the 1869 Act which were re-stated and expanded in this Act, the Commissioners were given the power to borrow up to $5,000 by issuing certificates of indebtedness. The remaining parts of this Act generally mirrored the 1869 Act. However, there were increases to the amount of tax which could be levied, now capped at not to exceed $600 annually, and in the amount of money which Kent County would allocate to maintain the streets and roads, now $200. A new provision provided for the Town to give $40 annually towards the maintenance of the Camden Fire Department.4

 

1900 – 1949

The 1889 Incorporating Act was amended in 1905 when the maximum amount that levied for taxes annually was increased to $1,000.5 In 1909, a law was passed which stated that the Incorporating Act of 1889 was renewed and re-enacted; no explanation was provided as to why this action was necessary.6 In 1911, the amount which Kent County was to provide to the Town for road maintenance was increased to $400 for a period of two years.7 Two years later, it was increased again to be $500 for two years after which it would return to $200. In another amendment to the 1889 Act that year, the maximum tax to be levied annually was increased to $1,200.8 In 1913, the provision that the funds to be allocated for road maintenance from Kent County was to revert to $200 was repealed and the allocation remained at $500. In the same year, there was another increase in the maximum tax that could be levied annually to $1,600.9 In 1919, an amendment to the 1889 Incorporating Act increased the borrowing power of the Town of Camden to $10,000. This required approval by referendum and also required that a special tax be established to pay the interest yearly and principal on the bonds when they came due.10 A year later, another increase was approved in the maximum tax which could be levied on the Town annually, to $5,000. In addition, the corporate boundaries of the Town were increased.11 In 1921, the Town of Camden borrowed $5,000 to pay for repairs and improvements to its water system.12

In 1941, “The Town of Camden” was re-incorporated and a Charter was established. The exercise of power within the Town was vested in a Town Council made up of five members who were to serve three-year terms. Their qualifications and duties, as well as the election process, were outlined in the Charter. Meetings of the Town Council were to be held monthly and were presided over by a President. They chose the President, a Secretary, and a Treasurer from among the members of the Council. Other Town officials were appointed and included a Collector of Taxes, a Town Solicitor, an Assessor, an Auditor, an Alderman, and a Police Chief. In addition, a three-person Board of Health was to be established. Beginning in 1942 and every four years thereafter, the Town was to assess real estate which was subject to County taxation and determine a tax rate that would meet the Town’s needs. A lien could be placed on the real estate of those who were delinquent in paying their taxes, making the property subject to sheriff’s sale. The Town was also able to assess taxes on telephone, telegraph and power poles, but was prohibited from assessing taxes on farmland as well as providing an exemption for ten years on the taxes owed by a manufacturing business. The maximum amount of taxes to be levied annually remained at $5,000. In addition to fees for regulating dogs, the Town was given the power to charge a fee for those who were operating a business or operating a public utility, and for those requesting building permits. They were also empowered to regulate parking on the streets, set-backs for buildings, demolition of buildings that were unsafe. The Town was authorized to borrow money for public purposes such as providing water or sewer, or improving and paving the streets. In addition, they were empowered to float a loan of up to $1,000 in any one fiscal year without issuing bonds. The Charter included provisions on streets, water system, sewer system, drainage, electric current, contracts, fire, zoning, building inspection permits, licenses, and trees.13

The first amendments to the 1941 Incorporating Act were made in 1949. Three laws were passed which provided for the amount of floating debt to be increased to $3,000; provided for the corporate limits to be expanded, and provided for contracts to generally be limited to no more than ten years.14

 

1950 – 1999

In 1953, the maximum amount of taxes to be levied annually increased to $12,500.15 Ten years later, in 1963, the corporate limits were expanded16; the corporate limits were increased again in 1965. Also in that year the maximum amount of taxes to be levied annually was increased to $20,000, and there were several other revisions to the Charter, including one related to the Alderman.17 In 1969, an increase in the maximum amount of the annual taxation to $25,000 was approved.18 A technical correction was made to the Charter in 1972 related to the assessment process.19 In 1973, the age at which residents could vote and qualify as Town Council members was changed from 21 years to 18; the Town’s maximum annual taxation amount was increased to $35,000, and some of the enumerated powers of the Town were changed.20 In 1977, several additions were made to the Town’s boundaries.21

The next re-incorporation of the Town of Camden took place in 1982. The corporate limits are cited and provisions were made for the Town to annex land. The structure of the government did not change. Qualifications for serving on the Town Council as well as the election process were described. The President who was chosen from among the Town Council members was to serve as Mayor. The Town Council was to meet monthly. In addition to the Town officials cited in the 1941 Charter, there was now a Vice-Mayor, an Alderman’s Assistant, and an Assistant Secretary. The Board of Health was increased to four members, and there was a Board of Assessment rather than a single Assessor. The requirement to carry out an audit on an annual basis was clearly described. The Town’s budget was to be based on the amount necessary to meet fixed and anticipated expenses and the assessment rate was to reflect this. The process by which taxes are collected was outlined in detail. The Town was also empowered to collect for water and sewer services, electric and gas bills, licenses, and trash collection. The Town’s powers were enumerated and numbered forty-five. The Town continued to be empowered to borrow money and issue municipal bonds in order to defray costs associated with municipal projects related to electricity, gas, light water, sewer, or highway repair. The bonded indebtedness was not to exceed 25% of the value of the Town’s real estate.22

Five years later, there was a major change in the way in which the Town was governed. The position of Mayor became an elected office serving a two-year term, and the number of members on the Town Council was decreased to four, each elected to a three-year term. The position of President of the Council was eliminated while the Vice-President of the Council became the Vice-Mayor.23 In both 198824 and 199725, technical corrections in the Charter made revisions to the election process.

 

2000 – Current

In 2003 the Town of Camden was re-incorporated. The description of the Town’s corporate limits was quite extensive and precise. Further annexation of land was allowed once approved by referendum. In addition to the Mayor and Council, there was now to be a Town Manager position whose duties are described in the Charter. There was also a Senior Town Clerk, a Treasurer/Accountant, a Collector of Taxes, a Town Solicitor, a Board of Health, a Police Force, and a Board of Assessment. The remaining sections of the Charter in many ways mirrored that of the 1982 Charter. There are forty-four powers conveyed to the Town Council, one less than conveyed previously.26

In 2007, the Town of Camden was again re-incorporated. No longer were the metes and bounds of the corporate limits included in the Charter, instead, it references the official map of record which was recorded with Kent County. The Charter lists the following Town officials: a Town Manager, a Chief Financial Officer, a Town Clerk, a Town Solicitor, the Police Force, and an Auditor. The Town’s Charter no longer lists a Board of Health, nor does it include a Board of Assessment, rather it calls for the adoption of the Kent County’s assessment. The determination of and collection of taxes remain the same. The powers vested in the Town Council have been reduced to fifty-one; those deleted include the power to establish an animal pound, the power to regulate slaughterhouses, and the power to borrow up to $100,000 without a referendum. The latter power is addressed in a greatly expanded separate section on borrowing money and indebtedness.27

One year after the Town’s re-incorporation, there were amendments made in the qualifications to serve as the Mayor and on the Town Council.28 In 2013, the Town’s corporate limits were amended by de-annexing a parcel of land which was then annexed into the Town of Wyoming’s corporate limits.29

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

 


 

View selected photographs of Camden

 


 

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 10 Del. Laws, c. 652 (1852) [pp. 663-66]

2 13 Del. Laws, c. 476 (1869) [pp. 481-96]

3 18 Del. Laws, c. 162 (1887) [pp. 285-86]

4 18 Del. Laws, c. 642 (1889) [pp. 817-34]

5 23 Del. Laws, c. 173 (1905) [p. 301]

6 25 Del. Laws, c.189 (1909) [p. 369]

7 26 Del. Laws, c. 228 (1911) [p. 519]

8 27 Del. Laws, c. 236 and c. 237 (1913) [p. 669 and pp. 670-71]

9 28 Del. Laws, c. 142 and c. 143 (1915) [p. 440 and p. 441]

10 30 Del. Laws, c. 137 (1919) [pp. 309-10]

11 31 Del. Laws, c. 35 and c. 36 (1920) [p. 90 and p. 91]

12 32 Del. Laws, c. 131 (1921) [pp. 388-89]

13 43 Del. Laws, c. 159 (1941) [pp. 558-604]

14 47 Del. Laws, c. 36, c. 108, and c. 241 (1949) [pp. 70-71, pp. 170-73, and p. 505]

15 49 Del. Laws, c. 271 (1953) [pp. 498-99]

16 54 Del. Laws, c. 209 (1963) [pp. 712-13]

17 55 Del. Laws, c. 6, c. 190, and c. 231 (1965) [pp. 21-22, pp. 567-70, and pp. 638-40]

18 57 Del. Laws, c. 40 (1969) [pp.68-69]

19 58 Del. Laws, c. 393 (1972) [p. 1177]

20 59 Del. Laws, c. 85 (1973) [p. 157]

21 61 Del. Laws, c. 57 (1977) [pp. 80-81]

22 63 Del. Laws, c. 272 (1982) [pp. 535-57]

23 66 Del. Laws, c. 177 (1887) [pp. 384-85]

24 66 Del. Laws, c. 242 (1988) [p. 478]

25 71 Del. Laws, c. 94 (1997) [p. 202]

26 74 Del. Laws, c. 125 (2003) [pp. 326-51]

27 76 Del. Laws, c. 139 (2007) [pp. 172-89]

29 76 Del. Laws, c. 341 (2008) [vol. II, pp. 201-202]

29 79 Del. Laws, c. 138 (2013) [http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/ga147/chp138.shtml]   

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


RECORDS at DPA


Town of Camden records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Minutes of the Commissioners/Town Council (1852-1992): 6010-000-001
  • Minutes of the Board of Adjustment (1985-1988): 6010-000-002
  • Minutes of the Planning and Zoning Commission (1980-1988): 6010-000-003

 

jnl / June 8, 2018 | April 22, 2019


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