County Eyes Three Bills Targeting Adult Businesses

SNOW HILL – Sexually-oriented businesses in Worcester County may soon face permanent regulations governing location, signage and customer behavior, after the County Commissioners introduced three bills this week to cover the adult enterprises.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the legislation at their Dec. 7 meeting at 11 a.m. and are likely to pass the laws that day to get them on the books before the moratorium enacted in May runs out.

The new legislation, generated by consulting law firm Funk and Bolton, would replace the interim legislation passed in June.

“I think it’s okay the way it is. It makes a reasonable accommodation for the industry,” county attorney Ed Hammond said. “I think it’s adequate and it demonstrably protects the opportunity for free speech.”

Commissioner Judy Boggs said,  “If you say it’s fine, I’m okay with that.”

“What has been suggested to us seems to be adequate,” Commissioner Linda Busick said later.

The three laws will govern zoning code restrictions, legitimate massage operations and the health code with respect to adult businesses.

Under the first law, sexually-oriented businesses will only be permitted in industrial zones, A building housing an adult enterprise cannot be within 1,200 feet (nearly a quarter mile) of the property line of a school, church or other place of worship, day care center, group home, park or public library.

A building housing a sexually-oriented business must also be 1,200 feet from other buildings housing an adult business. Signs depicting adult-oriented material or entertainment would be prohibited, under this law.

Sexually-oriented massage businesses are not permitted anywhere in Worcester County, under the second law.

The third law, under public health, requires that all parts of a sexually-oriented business must be under surveillance by an actual employee at all times; that the business has sufficient lighting inside and out; and that merchandise is not visible from outside the building.

Sexually oriented businesses, under this legislation, would not be permitted on the same parcel or in the same building as a lodging establishment.

Nudity or partial nudity would also be prohibited, unless a performer stays six feet away from any other person, including staff. No touching or sexual activity is allowed.

Violations on five different days in 12 months would cause revocation of the business’s certificate of occupancy.