Resort Near Sex Shop Laws

OCEAN CITY – Two ordinances outlining the licensing and zoning of sexually oriented businesses passed on first reading this week, leaving only a few details to be worked about before the issue is laid to rest.

The Mayor and Council reviewed two ordinances this week, both dealing with sexually oriented businesses, an ongoing issue that the Mayor and Council has been working to set parameters on for months.

The first ordinance calls for restrictions on where sexually oriented businesses can set up shop in Ocean City, limiting the businesses essentially to one section of town.

The ordinance 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.

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 current sexually oriented business in town, 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, outlining what a sexually oriented business can and cannot do within the Town of Ocean City.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained to the Mayor and Council that the ordinance needed to be as extensive as possible in order to protect the town against any claim of infringement on constitutional rights.

“With your typical legislation, all you need is a rational basis test…when you start to regulate constitutional activity you have to have a predicate upon which you base regulating in this manner,” Ayres said. “I’d rather be overprotective than under-protective.”

Ayres explained to the Mayor and Council that a price for licensing fees still needed to be decided on. Currently, the town’s sole sexually oriented business pays the same licensing fee as a retail shop. The council will discuss the licensing fees at next week’s work session.

Both ordinances were passed unanimously by the City Council.