City Goes Strict On Sex Shop Legislation

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and Council settled on a course of action regarding sexually oriented businesses this week, with a unanimous vote for a scenario that outlines the limited portion of town that will allow for sexually oriented businesses.

Ocean City Planning and Development Director Jesse Houston presented the Mayor and Council with six scenarios for zoning and licensing of sexually oriented businesses over the past couple of months. This week, the Mayor and Council agreed on the most restrictive scenario, one that will significantly limit the areas of town where sexually oriented businesses can set up shop.

Ocean City currently consists of only one sexually oriented business, but the possibility of more following en suite was enough to spur the Mayor and Council to place a moratorium on sexually oriented businesses until a decision on the licensing and zoning of sexually oriented businesses could be made.

The Mayor and Council have gone back and forth on the issue for several months, resulting in the extension of the moratorium twice to allow them more time for review. The Mayor and Council initially faced concerns that being too restrictive on sexually oriented businesses could result in a lawsuit against the town, but after reviewing maps showing the areas of town that could be zoned for sexually oriented businesses, officials decided that it would be best to proceed with a more restrictive scenario.

Houston appeared before the council this week with two additional and more restrictive scenarios. Both scenarios called for a 600-foot buffer between any sexually oriented business and certain protected facilities, such as the Boardwalk, churches and family-oriented entertainment. One of the scenarios called for a 225-foot buffer between sexually oriented businesses and residential uses while the other called for a 300-foot buffer from residential uses.

After reviewing both scenarios, the council agreed to go with the most restrictive scenario, which will require a 600-foot buffer from protected facilities and a 300-foot buffer from residential uses. This scenario will yield two acres of property and .09 percent of developable land for sexually oriented businesses. With the restrictions of the scenario, the only area of town that will be zoned for additional sexually oriented businesses will be in the Food Lion Shopping Center between 118th and 119th streets.

“I think it’s fair based on what we have today,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.

The council voted unanimously to approve the scenario and have it brought back in ordinance form for first reading.