Officials Act To Prevent Future Surprises

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On the heels of an adult business opening in Ocean City
along Coastal Highway, local governments are doing exactly what they should be
– making sure it does not happen again without their input.

When the SexStyles shop opened in north Ocean City this
spring, it became the first such business to begin operating in Worcester
County and it caught officials by surprise. While it’s true there are other
businesses in town peddling pornographic material and there have been others
selling lingerie and other feminine products, there was never any business
focused entirely on sex and one that relishes being as high profile with its
wares.

After the shop first opened, we took a look around inside
because we wanted to see if all the fuss was warranted. The storeowners do
appear to be intent on making sure nobody under 18 is admitted through the
door. We were, in fact, carded before being allowed to enter the store,
although you do get a clear view of the merchandise for sale before having to
display your identification. Once inside the store, numerous adult videos,
lingerie and other apparel are clearly on display as well as a rack of sex
toys. It’s not our thing, but the store’s interior is not necessarily offensive
or tasteless. However, the same cannot be said for the mannequins lining the
highway. Those are certainly a black eye for the town and make it clear what
kind of store is located along the resort’s main thoroughfare.

Although only one person spoke out against the sex shop at
last week’s public hearing before the Ocean City Planning Commission, the
resort community has justifiably called for the Mayor and Council to do
something to restrict these types of businesses. The town responded with an
immediate moratorium and the drafting of a zoning code amendment, which
basically limits the possible sites for these businesses to a small area, or 1
percent of the landmass in Ocean City. In addition, it gives the current
business, which has a monopoly on the market today, one year to conform to the
code by moving to commercial space that adheres to the “600-foot” rule or be
forced to go out of business.

The County Commissioners okayed a moratorium last week to
prevent “application for or issuance of permits for adult entertainment
businesses” through the end of this year. The county, in the meantime, will be
exploring legislation to strictly limit exactly where adult businesses can
open. If the commissioners follow Ocean City’s lead, there will be few options
for adult proprietors to explore. Those avenues left for the proprietors to
explore will most likely be so remote they make opening the business not worthwhile.

Local government officials are right to head down this
path and protect the local tourism industry as well as the residential
communities of the region. Worcester County and particularly Ocean City is not
the place for these types of businesses. It does not fit with the community’s
residents or its visitors. The marketplace will determine how successful the
current business is in north Ocean City, but we laud the local leaders for
stepping up to the plate and acting quickly to severely limit the industry’s
future proliferation.

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