learn more about Greenwood

RG# 7110


RG 9015-028-000: Greenwood, Market St looking East from RR. c. 1920

In 1858, the north-south track of the Delaware Railroad between Harrington and Bridgeville was laid out through the lands of Simeon Pennewell. There was a village a few miles to the east, but Pennewell saw the opportunity that the railroad presented and laid out streets and town lots centered on the railroad tracks. Within ten years a train depot, a general store, a hotel, and a number of residences had been built, and it continued to grow into a market town and business center.


1900 – 1949

Greenwood was first incorporated in 1901. The Act of Incorporation called for the Town to be surveyed and specified that no boundary line was to be more than one-quarter mile from the Delaware Railroad Crossing on Market Street creating a corporate boundary in the shape of a square measuring one-half mile on each side. Five Commissioners were to form a Town Council chaired by a President. They were to be elected for staggered, two-year terms. All Town residents over the age of 21 who had paid their last assessment were eligible to vote. Town officials included an Alderman, Constables, a Secretary, and a Treasurer, all of whom were appointed yearly and an Assessor who was to be elected each year. They had the option of appointing a Collector of Taxes. Meetings of the Town Council were to be held in May, June August, October, December, February, and April. One of the primary duties of the Town Council was to ascertain, fix boundaries of, and maintain the streets, gutters, and sidewalks of the Town. The Levy Court of Sussex County was to assist by providing $250 annually for street repair. The costs of paving sidewalks and guttering were to be borne by adjacent property owners and penalties, including the sale of property, were allowed if these costs were not paid. The Town Council also could enact ordinances to prevent nuisances, to preserve the health of the Town, to keep the streets clear, and to regulate the keeping of dogs. The Alderman assisted by the Constables was charged with ensuring that the Town’s ordinances were carried out and with keeping the peace; suppressing all turbulent or noisy assemblages; preventing bonfires in the streets and the firing of guns; and arresting those who have broken the law. The Town Council was to assess every male resident of the Town over 21 years of age. The total amount of taxes which could be levied could not exceed $900 annually. Manufacturing companies employing more than six employees were exempt from property tax.1

In 1917, the Incorporating Act was amended to extend the corporate limits of the Town by ⅛ mile in all directions, thereby retaining the square shape of the corporate boundaries. The 1917 amendment also increased the maximum tax which could be levied to $1,500 annually.2 In 1919, another revision to the Incorporating Act called for the Town’s revenue and expenses to be audited for the previous year and required that, in the future, an audit be carried out every year.3 In 1923, amendments provided that both males and females, if over 21, were to be assessed taxes, and it also increased the maximum amount of taxes to be levied annually to $5,000. Another law authorized the Town to borrow $30,000 for erecting and maintaining a waterworks that would supply water for domestic purposes and for protection against fires. Referendum approval was required before municipal bonds could be issued. The law also called for a special tax to be levied to pay the yearly interest on the bonds and to create a sinking fund to provide monies to redeem the bonds upon maturity. The Town was also granted the power to supervise and control all public mains, pipes, sewers, and drains.4 In 1931, changes were made in the election procedures, including moving the Town’s election day from May to January.5 Two years later, the Incorporating Act was revised so the annual meeting of the Town Council would take place in January soon after the election. Further revisions acknowledged that the Council’s ability to pass ordinances was not limited to only those areas listed in the 1909 Incorporating Act but extended to all functions required for good government.6 In 1935, Greenwood was authorized to borrow $25,000 for the purpose of redeeming and refunding outstanding municipal bonds; no referendum was required.7 In 1937, additional changes to the 1901 Incorporating Act were required to ensure that the Act was internally consistent with the January annual meeting of the Town Council. It also allowed for a monetary penalty to be imposed if taxes were delinquent and allowed for liens against the property.8 In 1941, the Town was given the power to borrow money and to issue municipal bonds.9 In 1947, the maximum amount of taxation was increased to $7,500 annually.10 It was increased again two years later to $20,000, and in the same law, the corporate limits were extended ⅛ mile to the east.11


1950 – 1999

In 1985, a law amended the 1917 Incorporating Act by authorizing Greenwood to borrow money provided that these monies be used to build and maintain a sewage treatment plant. The borrowing power was limited to $1.5 million and referendum approval was required.12 A year later a technical correction was made to the provisions in the Act related to the Town’s borrowing power.13 The final amendment to Greenwood’s 1917 Incorporating Act was passed in 1987 when the maximum amount of taxation was increased to $50,000 annually.14

In 1991, ninety years after it was first incorporated, Greenwood was re-incorporated and a Charter established. The corporate limits are described in metes and bounds. Further annexation of land was made possible after being approved by referendum. As in the 1917 Incorporating Act, all powers are vested in the Town Council which consists of five members serving two-year terms. Elections are held annually in January and regular meetings of the Council occur monthly. Each year, a member of the Council is selected to be President of the Council which carries the title of Mayor. Other officials selected from the Council are the Vice-President and a Secretary. The Town Council may appoint a Town Manager to serve as Chief Administrative Officer of the Town. The Council or the Mayor also appoints an Alderman, Assistant Alderman, Town Solicitor, Tax Assessor, Town Solicitor, Board of Health, and as needed, a Police Force. In addition to the powers given to all municipal corporations, the Town Council was vested in forty-two specific delegated powers among which are: laying out and maintaining streets; curbing and paving streets and sidewalks; providing water; maintaining a sewer system; providing electricity; controlling drainage; granting and regulating franchises to provide public services; enforcing a building code; providing for the organization of a fire department and giving it annual monetary support; borrowing money for municipal purposes; condemning land; and borrowing up to $100,000 on a short term basis. The Town also retains the power to borrow money and issue bonds for any municipal purpose if such action is approved by a referendum vote. The maximum amount of taxation is not to exceed $500,000 annually.15 Amendments were required for the 1991 Charter as early as 1994. At that time the requirement to vote in person was lifted and absentee voting was allowed.16


2000 – Current

In 2007, the Town Charter was amended to include procedures indemnifying all Town officials who are threatened by a lawsuit related to their position. The same year, the Town’s Tax Collector was authorized to follow the procedures used by the Receiver of Taxes of Sussex County.17 In 2014, a number of amendments were made to the Charter which clarified the qualifications to run for Town Council and changed the method for nominating candidates; changed the voting procedures to conform with current law on municipal elections; removed the reference to the President and the Vice-President of the Council which were now called only Mayor and Vice-Mayor; eliminated the positions of Alderman and Vice-Alderman and deleted the section of the Charter on these Town officials; and eliminated the section of the Charter on the Police Force.18

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

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 22 Del. Laws, c. 183 (1901) [pp. 374-93]

2 29 Del. Laws, c. 155 (1917) [p. 534]

3 30 Del. Laws, c. 144 (1919) [pp. 328-9]

4 33 Del. Laws, c. 146 (1923) [p. 416]

5 37 Del. Laws, c. 157 (1931) [pp. 543-5]

6 38 Del. Laws, c. 102 (1933) [pp. 434-5]

7 40 Del. Laws, c. 166 (1935) [pp. 600-02]

8 41 Del. Laws, c. 147 (1937) [pp.435-38]

9 43 Del. Laws, c. 167 (1941) [pp. 716-17]

10 47 Del. Laws, c. 34 (1949) [p. 67]

11 48 Del. Laws, c. 81 (1951) [p. 176]

12 65 Del. Laws, c. 18 (1985) [pp. 16-18]

13 65 Del. Laws, c. 326 (1986) [p. 605]

14 66 Del. Laws, c. 11 (1987) [p. 20]

15 68 Del. Laws, c. 109 (1991) [pp. 325-53]

16 69 Del. Laws, c. 209 (1994) [p. 438]

17 76 Del. Laws, c. 15 and c. 154 (2007) [vol. I, p. 21 and pp. 210-11]

18 79 Del. Laws, c. 228 (2014) [http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/ga147/chp228.shtml]

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


Town of Greenwood records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Minutes of the Commissioners/Town Council (1934-1993): 7110-000-001


jnl / July 10, 2018 | April 23, 2019