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RG# 7040

RG 9015-016-001: Dagsboro Main St c. 1969

In the seventeenth century, a village called Blackfoot Town was settled at the headwater of Pepper Creek, a tributary of the Indian River Bay. In 1774, William Penn granted a tract of land which contained this village to General John Dagsworthy and the village was re-named Dagsborough/Dagsboro in his honor.

The 1800s

Dagsboro was first incorporated under the corporate name of the “Commissioners of the Town of Dagsboro” in 1899. Five Commissioners were appointed to work with a surveyor in laying out the limits and streets of the Town. They were then to record the plat with Sussex County. The 1899 Incorporating Act awarded the Commissioners of the Town certain powers which included laying out and paving streets, sidewalks, and keeping the peace, and all other matters relating to the general welfare of the Town. The appointed Commissioners were to serve until new Commissioners could be elected with the procedures for and time of such an election was contained within the Incorporating Act. For each dollar or partial dollar that town residents were assessed, eligible voters would receive one vote in an election. The Commissioners were to meet four times a year and were to elect one of their members to serve as President. They were also to appoint an Assessor and a Collector of Taxes. In addition, an Alderman and a Constable were to be selected to assist the Commissioners in keeping the peace. Both real estate and personal property were to be assessed and there was to be a per capita tax of at least fifty cents on all males over 21 years of age. Machinery within manufacturing plants in the town was exempt from taxation. The Commissioners were to determine the amount of tax that would be needed for the Town; this was not to exceed $500 annually. Part of the monies raised through taxation would be used to pave the streets, assisted by a yearly contribution of $200 from the Sussex County Levy Court. 1

1900 – 1949

In 1903, an amendment to the Town’s Incorporating Act repealed the provision to allow for one vote for each dollar or partial dollar assessed to provide for one vote per eligible voter.2 In 1920, legislation was approved to allow the Commissioners of Dagsboro to raise $1,000 by issuing bonds.3

Twenty-four years after it was first incorporated, the Town of Dagsboro was re-incorporated in 1923. The new Incorporating Act reflected a change in the structure of government. The powers of the Town continued to rest with the five Commissioners (who were also called the Town Council); however, rather than electing an Alderman, the Commissioners were now to elect a Mayor, who was not required to be a Council member. The Mayor was to preside at Council meetings although he could not vote unless he was also a Commissioner. The Mayor was given many duties and responsibilities within the Town, among which were to execute all ordinances enacted for the government of the town, to carry into effect all of the orders of the Town Council, and to keep the peace. Among the other changes in the 1923 Incorporating Act were adding the position of Town Clerk; allowing for the annexation of land; raising the amount of tax that could be levied to $1,000 annually and the per capita tax to $1; and allowing for women over 21 years of age to vote.4

Four years later, the 1923 Incorporating Act was amended to allow the Commissioners to approve ordinances that would allow for franchising companies who would provide for the transmittal of light, heat, power or water lines in the Town.5 A few years after this, new provisions were made to the Act to authorize the Commissioners to borrow money by issuing municipal bonds.6

In 1941, the Town again reincorporated in the corporate name of “The Town of Dagsboro.” The boundaries of the Town were listed in specific metes and bounds. The Town would be governed by an elected Town Council made up of five members presided over by a member who was to be elected President. The Council was to meet monthly. Other Town Officials included: a Secretary, a Treasurer, an Alderman, a Town Solicitor, a Collector of Taxes, Board of Assessors, Auditors, and a Police Chief. The Act outlined the procedures for assessing and collecting taxes as well as penalties for non-payment which included liens against and sale of property. Those who were exempt from taxation were specified. The maximum amount to be levied annually for taxes was not to exceed $5,000, but its exact amount was tied to creating a budget for the amount of money necessary to defray the Town’s expenses. The specific powers of the Council were enumerated and provided for enacting ordinances to preserve the health of the Town; to prevent nuisances; to lay out and maintain streets; to pave streets and sidewalks; to provide for adequate gutters and drainage; to regulate the construction of chimneys; to regulate dangerous substances; to construct and maintain water mains in order to provide for fire protection; to control traffic within the streets; to enact regulations related to keeping dogs and prevent the keeping of pigs, hogs, chickens and other livestock; to collect fees from those practicing businesses; and to regulate the operation of utilities within the Town. The Town was authorized to borrow money and issue bonds and the Act indicated under what terms and for what purposes this could happen. Other sections of the Act provided guidance to the Town Council on Obstructions, Nuisances and Unsanitary conditions, Streets, Paving, Guttering, Curbing, Constructing, Paving, Repairing of Streets, Contracts, Water System, Sewer System, Electric Current and Power Plant Franchises, Sale of Property, Drainage, Health, Fire, Zoning, Building Inspection Permits, Licenses, Trees, Penalties, Fines and Imprisonment, and Floating Debt.7

1950 – 1999

The first of several amendments to the 1941 Incorporating Act were made in 1959 when annexation of land was proposed and described in metes and bounds. Its annexation had to be approved by special election. Also in 1959, the maximum amount of tax to be levied on the Town was raised to $10,000 annually.8 In 1977, the Town amended various parts of its 1941 Incorporating Act making a number of technical corrections, and also by allowing those over 18 to be assessed (despite the fact that a resident had to be 21 in order to vote), and increasing the maximum  amount of annual taxation to no more than $25,000.9 Three years later, the voting age was changed to 18 if you were a property owner within the Town, and the part of the Act pertaining to election procedures was expanded.10 In 1988, the annual maximum taxation to be levied on the Town was changed to 3% of the assessed value of the property.11 A year later, the Town was authorized to collect a transfer tax of 1% on all real estate transfers located within its limits.12

In 1991, fifty years after the previous incorporation, the Town was re-incorporated and a Charter established. The Town was still to be governed by a Town Council of five members elected by popular vote of the Town’s residents over 18 years of age. Elections are to take place on the first Saturday in December with the annual meeting of the Town Council to take place in January at which time a Mayor and Vice-Mayor are chosen from among the members of the Town Council. The Mayor serves as the President of the Council and is a voting member. The Mayor is authorized to appoint a Town Administrator to assist him or to take over his duties. All of the Town officials named in the 1941 Incorporating Act are continued in the 1991 Charter which also establishes a Board of Health. The maximum amount of monies that can be levied in taxes annually is 25% of the assessed value of the Town’s real estate. There are specific procedures related to the method of carrying out the assessment and the collection of taxes and penalties for non-payment. Fifty-one powers of the Town Council are enumerated. This list of powers is an expansion of what was in the 1941 Incorporating Act. This Charter contained specific sections on Streets, Curbing and Paving, Subdivision and Land Development, and Collection of Charges. Added to this Charter are provisions for eminent domain.13

A year after the re-incorporation, the Charter was amended to change the term of Council members from three years to two, and to make technical corrections to the provisions for tax assessment and collection.14 In 1993, amendments were made to the Charter related to the Town’s voting procedures.15

2000 – Current

In 2001, additional amendments were made so that the Town could borrow $300,000 without seeking approval through a referendum.16 Further amendments were made to the voting procedures in 2002.17 In 2004, the power to borrow money without referendum approval was once again revised to be capped at 10% of the assessed value of the Town. Also, in 2004, volunteer fire companies and ambulance companies were specifically mentioned as being recipients of impact fees charged for new development.18 In 2005, the section of the Charter relating to the Town Administrator and his duties was deleted and revised to indicate that that the Mayor and Council would determine the duties of this position. Also, in 2005, specific provisions were added related to forfeiture of office.19 In 2009 the election procedure was again revised.20

For a fully updated text of current Charter, see

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 21 Del. Laws, c. 285 (1899) [pp.548-54]

2 22 Del. Laws, c. 437 (1903) [p. 931]

3 31 Del. Laws, c. 44 (1920) [pp. 103-4]

4 33 Del. Laws, c. 158 (1923) [pp. 499-508]

5 35 Del. Laws, c. 99 (1927) [pp. 291-2]

6 39 Del. Laws, c. 23 (1934) [pp. 78-9]

7 43 Del. Laws, c. 161 (1941) [pp. 609-62]

8 52 Del. Laws, c. 29 and c. 254 (1959) [p. 74 and p. 550]

9 61 Del. Laws, c. 171 (1977) [pp. 558-60]

10 62 Del.  Laws, c. 360 (1980) [pp. 833-9]

11 66 Del. Laws, c. 289 (1988) [p. 529]

12 67 Del. Laws, c. 33 (1989) [pp. 41-2]

13 68 Del. Laws, c. 138 (1991) [pp. 409-44]

14 68 Del. Laws, c. 295 and c. 355 (1992) [p. 1038 and pp. 1193-4]

15 69 Del. Laws, c. 15 (1993) [p. 13]

16 73 Del. Laws, c. 56 (2001) [p. 96]

17 73 Del. Laws, c. 242 (2002) [p. 550]

18 74 Del. Laws, c. 284 and c. 363 (2004) [p. 625 and p. 881]

19 75 Del. Laws, c. 154 and c. 163 (2005) [p. 229 and pp. 234-5]

20 77 Del. Laws, c. 39 (2009) [vol. I, pp. 41-3]

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at


Town of Dagsboro records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Minutes of the Town Council (1941-1993): 7040-000-001

jnl/ May 15, 2018