Council measures range from land use to massage parlors

January 18, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The last two items on the agenda at tonight's County Council hearing may be the most interesting -- if anyone's awake by the time the council gets to them.

The bills, scheduled at the end of a 28-item agenda, would require massage parlors and their employees to obtain licenses and would set fees for the licenses.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker says the two-part package is necessary to stop certain massage parlors from catering to clients seeking sexual stimulation. The legislation would bar massage parlor employees from participating in prostitution, lewd displays or indecent behavior.

Exmpted from the legislation would be health professionals; athletic trainers; therapists certified by the National Certification Board for Bodywork and Massage Therapies; therapists who have completed advanced training in approved schools; or cosmetologists and barbers licensed to massage hands, feet, faces, scalps, necks and shoulders.

It is not the county's intention to rid itself of those who provide "legitimate massage therapy," Mr. Ecker said. Rather, he wishes to put an end to parlors and tanning spas where prostitution is alleged to have occurred.

Vice and narcotics detectives raided an Ellicott City tanning spa last May after an informant told them that female employees were charging customers between $100 and $140 for sex.

After the May 13 raid, police charged two female employees with prostitution.

The council could move through the agenda with dispatch, but recent history is against this -- especially since the three items immediately prior to the massage parlor legislation deal with land-use issues.

All three deal with the county's still-fresh adequate facilities law. The first would amend the law to exclude certain small subdivisions.

The other two have to do with the housing-unit allocations and projections about which portions of the county, if any, will be closed to growth in the next five years. In the past, council members have spent a lot of time questioning the assumptions underlying the allocations and projections.

Also expected to spark debate at the 8 p.m. hearing in the county office building are bills and resolutions that would:

* Authorize $250,000 in bonds for improvements to the county's Hilltop housing project.

* Abate taxes and special assessments for rental town houses owned by the county housing commission in Columbia and Savage.

* Transfer $320,000 from the contingency for unanticipated grants to the county's employment and training office. Take $50,000 from contingency reserves to cover the costs of converting the Economic Development Department to an Economic Development Authority.

* Take $30,000 from contingency reserves to study county participation in the Maryland retirement and pension system.

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