Judge postpones hearing on adult store and orders it closed for 10 more days

April 14, 1994|By Andrea F. Seigel and Dennis O'Brien | Andrea F. Seigel and Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writers

An Anne Arundel Circuit judge has postponed a hearing scheduled for today to decide the fate of a Severna Park adult book and video store and ordered that the store remain closed another 10 days.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner yesterday rescheduled the hearing for 9 a.m. April 25 to consider the county's request to close Ritchie News and Video.

Judge Lerner had ordered the store closed for 10 days on April 5 based on a request from county attorneys, who said it violated zoning codes. Judge Lerner had set a hearing for today to hear from both sides before deciding the permanent fate of the store in the Ritchie Robinson Plaza in the 400 block of Ritchie Highway.

The rescheduled hearing will give the lawyer hired by the store, William E. Seekford of Towson, time to prepare legal arguments, said Deputy County Attorney David A. Plymyer.

The temporary closing was ordered after Mr. Plymyer argued that the store is in a commercial district where such businesses are prohibited and that store managers had been denied the necessary business permit to open.

Mr. Plymyer also presented an affidavit from a county land-use officer who found in three inspections that roughly four-fifths of the inventory was "sexually oriented videotapes, periodicals and paraphernalia."

Mr. Seekford is also representing Glen Burnie News and Video Center, which is being challenged by county officials.

On Tuesday, Judge Martin A. Wolff granted the county's request to force that adult video store at the corner of Crain Highway and Wilson Boulevard to either come into compliance with the ordinance that regulates adult stores -- which includes restrictions on distances from homes -- or move from the residential neighborhood it borders.

Mr. Seekford maintained that the county cannot shut down a tenant by forcing the property owner's hand.

"The county is coming in and, instead of attacking the business, is attacking the property owner for allowing the tenant to do something it doesn't like. That's where the rub comes in," Mr. Seekford said.

But County Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks disagreed, saying zoning ordinances address the use of property, whether by an owner or tenant.

Mr. Plymyer said Tuesday that the store's failure to take a role in the case probably would limit its avenues of appeal.

The Glen Burnie store did not reply to the county's request that it

come into compliance with the adult store law or to notification that its landlord would not defend the use of the property.

Edwin A. Lechowicz, lawyer for Wilou Associates, said Tuesday that the partnership planned to tell the tenant to leave by June 1 or change the nature of its business. The store has a month-to-month lease.

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