Enforcement Problems Kill Adult Bookstore Bill

Councilman To Study Issue Further

October 20, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Councilman Philip J. Barker has withdrawn his bill regulating adult bookstores after county departments chiefs said they'd be hard-pressed to enforce the measure.

In announcing he was pulling the bill Tuesday, the first-term councilman said he would appoint a committee tostudy the issue.

"Rather than try to amend it to death, I decided to appoint a committee," said Barker, a District F Democrat. "We'll gather the minds together and in 60 days they'll come back with a bill."

Barker said the panel he appoints to study the issue of regulating bookstores that carry pornographic films, magazines and sexual aids will include representatives from adult bookstores and five county departments.

The county departments that would be charged with enforcing the bill's provisions include the law and health departments, planning and zoning, the Sheriff's Office and the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits.

"We need to determine the most effective method forenforcing the bill and the costs associated with enforcing the bill," said Barker.

Criticism on the bill came from the adult bookstoreindustry as well as county administrators.

William E. Seekford, aTowson lawyer representing the owner of two adult bookstores in Edgewood, has said he wants to be sure the bill does not infringe on the First Amendment rights of adult bookstore operators.

There are five adult bookstores in the county.

County departments that would becharged with making inspections to enforce the bill, though, were the most vocal in their critique of the proposal.

"My objections to the bill, as written, were that we're neither trained nor capable of doing that sort of work," said Stephen J. Kimlicko, director of the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits.

"We're not in a position to enforce social concerns. We're ruler people. I can tell youwhether it meets building, plumbing or the electrical codes, but when I get into other areas, it's difficult to address."

Kimlicko said that to attempt the tasks called for in the draft bill, he would have to hire two new employees at a cost of about $76,000.

The administrator said he would like to serve on the study committee to help fine-tune the bill so that the objectives could be achieved.

"For example, if I simply became a repository for licenses I could live with that," said Kimlicko.

A draft of the bill Barker circulated to council members and county administrators last month included new operating and eligibility requirements that adult bookstores would have to fulfill to obtain a license to operate.

The license would cost $500.

The draft bill says a license for an adult bookstore could besuspended or revoked by county inspectors if the shop was found selling materials to minors or distributes obscene material as defined under state law.

License suspension also could come if a variety of criminal offenses, such as prostitution, indecent exposure and drug sales, occurred on the property.

The draft bill also would limit the locations of bookstores, prohibiting them from within 1,000 feet ofa church, school, park, day care center or residential area.

Shops with viewing booths would have to make design changes so all areas of the store could been seen from the vantage of a manager's station.

The draft bill also would require adult bookstore owners to allowpolice to conduct background checks on all employees to see if they had been charged with a crime in the past year.

Also, it would allow police to regularly check shop parking lots and prohibit loiteringoutside the store and require lighted parking lots at night.

Under Barker's initial proposal, existing adult bookstores would have 45 days after the bill takes effect to apply for a license.

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