County Passes Bill Limiting Sex Shops To Industrial Areas

SNOW HILL – Lap dancing and X-rated movie theaters will not be coming to a commercial corridor near you after the County Commissioners passed a bill this week restricting sexually oriented businesses to industrial areas, a back-up measure for the moratorium already in place. 

The commissioners passed the bill six to one, an unusual vote breakdown for a body known for unanimous votes.

Commissioner Virgil Shockley voted against the bill because of the provision governing movie theaters. He waved a copy of the Academy Award winning film “Monster’s Ball,” starring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, to make his point that theaters showing R-rated films could be held liable under the law just passed. The film is 112 minutes long, he said, and 100 minutes of it are a good movie.

“There’s a [sex] scene in there that would fall straight into this,” he said.

Shockley raised the same objection when the bill was first discussed.

“If you want to ban an X-rated movie theater, ban an X-rated movie theater and be done with it,” Shockley said.

The language in the bill needs to be clarified for a better description of the type of theater banned, Shockley felt.

“’X-rated movie theater’ is not very easily defined,” said Worcester County attorney Ed Hammond.

Shockley called the provision “fishing with a stick of dynamite.”

Commissioner Bud Church said he would rather “err on the side of being over restricted than under-restricted.”

Referring to Berry’s performance, Shockley asked, “You’re going to ban a movie that won an Academy Award?”

“We’re not banning anything,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

The legislation “talks about regularly and routinely,” said Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor. “It also talks about films that are characterized by [a sexual] emphasis,” Tudor said.

Tudor took the language from a planners dictionary that includes legal language that is effective across the United States.

“We didn’t pull this out of thin air,” said Tudor. He added, “ I don’t believe it encompasses the kinds of films you’re speaking of.”

“My point is, why make it difficult with the language?” Shockley said. “To me it doesn’t make sense.”

A public hearing on the bill attracted no takers. The bill was passed unchanged.

“We have a law firm currently working on a comprehensive solution,” said Hammond.