Appeals board must rule on store with peep booths

April 04, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals must decide whether an Annapolis video store with peep show booths is an adult theater or bookstore that violates county zoning codes, a state appellate court ruled yesterday.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled that a county Board of Appeals review is mandatory because it is the only review available for parties such as 2020 News, in the 2000 block of West St., issued zoning violations before the county seeks a District Court citation and fine.

"There is no method of review, by an agency of the county, after the county issues the violation and before the county issues a citation carrying a monetary fine. An appeal to the Board of Appeals provides the only forum to contest the violation," the court said.

The decision represents another round in the county's effort to close adult video parlors.

The dispute stems from a county law that banned adult bookstores and adult film arcades from town center districts, including the one where the store is situated just outside the Annapolis city limits, as of Nov. 1, 1991.

The store, which is filled with explicitly sexual magazines and paraphernalia, has been operating at the site since April 14, 1983. The county notified the video shop owners Dec. 16, 1992, that they could no long operate at that site.

The owners, Michael and Kathe Peira, asked the Board of Appeals to review the case, but the board dismissed the appeal June 28, 1993, saying it lacked jurisdiction.

The Peiras then appealed to Anne Arundel Circuit Court, where Judge Eugene M. Lerner ruled last year that the Board of Appeals must consider their appeal.

County lawyers asked the state's intermediate appellate court to review that decision.

David Plymyer, deputy county attorney, said he feared that allowing 2020 News to ask the Board of Reviews to appeal its zoning violation would open the door to appeals by other violators.

"The main concern is, does this, as a matter of precedent, make zoning notices appealable to the Board of Appeals," Mr. Plymyer said yesterday.

The appeals court ruling also says if the Board of Appeals finds that the operation is an adult theater or bookstore, the matter should be consolidated with the two other suits pending in Anne Arundel Circuit Court between the shop and the county.

The county sued 2020 News on Jan. 9, 1992 to shut down the operation, alleging that the 1991 county law transformed the video store into an unlicensed adult film arcade.

The Peiras filed a countersuit April 14, 1992, requesting a judgment that would allow them court protection to continue operating.

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