Two Sex Shop Ordinances Near Council Approval

OCEAN CITY – Discussions surrounding sexually oriented businesses appear to be coming to a close as the Mayor and City Council moves one step closer to passing ordinances outlining the zoning and licensing of sexually oriented businesses.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres presented the Mayor and Council with two ordinances at a work session of the Mayor and Council this week, and if all goes well, both ordinances will be passed on first reading Monday night.

Sexually oriented business has been an exhaustive topic among the Mayor and City Council and staff over the past year as they worked to come to a consensus on zoning and licensing of sexually oriented businesses in Ocean City.

The first ordinance presented by Ayres deals with zoning of sexually oriented business, outlining limitations on the location of them and their distance from certain established businesses.

The Mayor and Council reviewed several options for zoning over the past year and in the end chose to go with the most restrictive option, which calls for sexually oriented businesses to be 600 feet from protected facilities and 300 feet from residential uses.

The ordinance reads that, “There shall be a separation of at least 600 feet, measured from the property line of the facilities identified below that exist on the date of the adoption of this ordinance, to the nearest point of the sexually oriented business.”

The facilities identified include schools, churches, recreational parks, the beach, the Boardwalk, and family or children oriented entertainment businesses such as movie theaters and mini-golf courses.

This ordinance also limits the hours of operation from 10 a.m. to midnight and requires patrons to be over 18 years of age.

The scenario outlined by the first ordinance will yield two acres of property and .09 percent of developable land for sexually oriented businesses. With the restrictions of the ordinance, the only area of town that will be zoned for any additional sexually oriented businesses will be in front of the Food Lion Shopping Center, located between 118th and 119th Streets. The town’s current sexually oriented business, located on 137th Street and Coastal Highway, will be allowed to remain at its current location, but only under current ownership and licensing.

“The second ordinance deals with the business itself,” said Ayres.

The lengthy and extensive ordinance defines sexually oriented businesses, outlining research findings regarding sexually oriented businesses and defining various aspects of sexually oriented businesses.

The ordinance defines a sexually oriented business as “an adult arcade, adult bookstore, adult novelty store, adult video store, adult cabaret, adult motel, adult motion picture theater, adult theater, escort agency, semi-nude model studio, or sexual encounter center.”

Although any of these types of sexually oriented businesses could potentially set up shop in the restricted area of town zoned for sexually oriented businesses, the ordinance works to outline every aspect of the businesses.

Any sexually oriented business will be required to be licensed, with licensing occurring through an application process through the town, and to have all employees licensed as sexually oriented business employees.

Licensing, revocation and suspension of licenses are also outlined and defined in the ordinance.

“There shall be no outside hawking, soliciting of customers, electronic displays, or dissemination of promotional materials. Window displays visible from the outside shall not include sexually explicit materials, products, displays or messages,” it reads.

The council voted unanimously, with Councilman Jim Hall absent, to move both ordinances to first reading.