Friday, December 21 – OC Extends Sex Shop Moratorium

OCEAN CITY – The end date of the moratorium on sexually oriented business licenses and zoning in Ocean City was officially pushed back another month this week with the unanimous vote from the City Council.

In a regular session of the Mayor and City Council Monday night, the council was presented with a resolution extending the moratoria on the issuance of business licenses and zoning approval for sexually oriented businesses. The resolution calls for the extension of the expiration of the moratoria from Feb. 1 to March 1.

The notion to extend the moratorium was first introduced in a work session last week when the Mayor and Council decided to review a more restrictive scenario for the zoning of sexually oriented businesses.

Sexually oriented businesses made their debut in Ocean City earlier this spring when an adult store named SexStyle opened uptown, causing many to wonder how many stores would follow in suite. As a result, a moratorium was passed in May, preventing the zoning or licensing of any more sexually oriented businesses.

The council took further steps toward resolving the issue in September, when it reviewed two scenarios, showing where sexually oriented businesses could be zoned. After failing to find a scenario they could accept, officials asked that Jesse Houston, director of Planning and Zoning, return at a later date with more scenarios. The council also passed a resolution at that time to extend the moratorium date until Feb. 1.

The underlying concern regarding sexually oriented businesses has been trying to find a middle ground where sexually oriented business zoning and licensing is restricted without violating first amendment rights.

In their second viewing of potential zoning scenarios, the Mayor and Council voiced its desire to go with the most restrictive option. Houston returned with a restrictive scenario last week that would call for 150-foot buffer between any sexually oriented business and a residential area and a 300-foot buffer between any sexually oriented business and certain existing uses, such as the Boardwalk, churches, or parks. After considering the small buffer that a 150-foot buffer would provide between a sexually oriented business and a residential area, the Mayor and Council decided to consider a scenario that would call for a 300-foot buffer.

This week, by passing the resolution calling for the extended moratoria, the Mayor and Council sought more time to review first and second readings of ordinances outlining the licensing and zoning of sexually oriented businesses. If all goes as planned, the ordinance will be presented and passed by the end of January.