There is no excuse for the failuRe of Anne Arundel County government to enforce a year-old law designed to force X-rated video and book stores out of residential and business areas. County Planning and Zoning Director Ardath Cade could offer only this feeble explanation for the inaction: "It was an oversight."
How could county officials have overlooked a well-publicized issue that is tremendously important to residents?
A year ago, the uproar over X-rated shops near residential areas was one of the biggest stories in the county. Citizens in Glen Burnie and Odenton were upset that after years of fighting the dirty bookstore trade in their neighborhoods, four new pornography shops had popped up. At their insistence, the County Council passed emergency legislation that confined adult stores to industrial zones and outlawed them from being closer than 1,000 feet from homes, schools, churches and parks. Those in non-compliance had a year to move.
Seeing the public's interest, you would have thought the county would have moved quickly to enforce the law. Instead, it did nothing.
Zoning officials never sent letters, as required, notifying stores that they would have to re-locate. The officials didn't inspect three of the stores until mid-October, after Councilman Edward Middlebrooks called to find out when the Glen Burnie store would be leaving town. A fourth store was inspected after an inquiry by The Evening Sun.
Had the county done its job, the stores would have had to move out by tomorrow. As it is, they don't have to go anywhere for a year now. (Realizing that his people goofed, County Executive Robert R. Neall has whipped up another piece of emergency legislation that could cut that time to six months. A good idea, though clearly an attempt to save face.)
Community leaders admit the stores have caused few problems, but that is not the point. A law was passed, and it was the county's responsibility to see it enforced. Council members have joined residents in criticizing the Neall administration, but it shouldn't have taken them a year to notice that the stores hadn't moved.
We hope the bookstore foul-up was an isolated incident. But it makes one wonder what other laws are just sitting on the books, not doing what they were created to do.