County Eyes Seven-Month Moratorium On Adult Shops

SNOW
HILL – No adult businesses will be permitted in Worcester County for the next
seven months after the County Commissioners approved a moratorium proposed this
week.

The
moratorium will prevent “application for or issuance of permits for adult
entertainment businesses until December 31, 2007,” according to the resolution.

Approving
the measure gives the county time to research the issue and write regulations
governing where adult-themed businesses may be located.

The
commissioners will introduce interim legislation on May during their scheduled
legislative session as a fall back position.

“Much
as I dislike the ‘m’ word, I think we need to prevent activity in this issue
while we’re studying it,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.

Commissioner
Linda Busick said it’s imperative to make sure the county is prepared for these
businesses.

“This
is something that’s been coming for a long time,” said Busick. “We just have to
do the best we can and see it’s properly regulated.”

Commissioner
Bud Church said the county is prepared to tackle the issue.

“I
think we’re doing as much as we can possibly do,” said Church. “It’s something
we’re going to stay on top of.”

That
there is not already either a moratorium or legislation in place to govern
adult businesses could have had unpalatable consequences for the county, with
an adult bookstore seeking to lease a prominent property in West Ocean City, on
Route 50, last month.

The
possibility of that type of store moving in provoked discreet panic on the part
of local residents.

Harley-Davidson
of Ocean City, the owner of the property at the corner of Route 50 and Keyser
Point Rd., refused the lease offer, later saying that it is not the kind of
business they want as a tenant.

Ed
Hammond, Worcester County’s attorney, has attempted to encourage various sets
of commissioners to create adult business regulations, but has been unsuccessful
for 20 years, until now.

“I’ve
brought this up before on numerous occasions,” he said. “I think there’s been a
hesitation in the past years to introduce and adopt legislation about adult
entertainment districts.” 

Hammond
concluded in a memo written to the commissioners this fall that past elected
officials were reluctant to regulate adult businesses because “in doing so, one
creates the appearance of promoting these types of activities.”

Adult-themed
businesses are legal, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I
think there’s a public perception they’re prohibited, and they’re not, not,
not,” Hammond said.

The
county may engage law firm Funk and Bolton, experts in the field, to advise on
the creation of an ordinance to regulate sexually oriented businesses.

“They’ll
essentially give us guidance on how to draft legislation, how it should be
worded,” said Worcester County spokesperson Kim Moses. “Funk and Bolton are
very familiar with drafting this type of legislation.”

According
to draft legislation prepared by Hammond, “regulation of such businesses is of
the utmost importance to the community.” He added, “It’s a very developing area
of the law. We want to be right up to date when we do it.”

Church
said he wants to protect his community from these businesses.

 “I want to say, ‘keep them from coming in,’”
said Church. “I’m going to do what I can to keep it out of my district and keep
it out of Worcester County. The best case is regulate it so tightly they may
not want to come in.”

Hammond
has suggested restricting adult businesses to industrial areas, away from the
public eye.

“If it’s a permitted
use in an industrial area, that may be something we can compromise on,” Church
said. “People who want to avail themselves of that product can go there.” 

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