Neighbors battle adult bookstores

U.S. 1

September 10, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A proposed zoning amendment that would limit adult video and book stores in Howard County to heavy business areas and industrial parks is drawing fire from residents who live along the U.S. 1 corridor because much of that land is near their communities.

The residents argue that the change would keep sexually oriented businesses out of high-brow Columbia and Ellicott City while driving them to the more blue-collar, less influential towns of Elkridge, Jessup and Savage.

The county Planning Board will review the proposed legislation at 7 o'clock tonight -- and representatives of the Elkridge Community Association will be there to oppose it.

"Basically, our feeling is that rather than come up with a creative solution to the problem of these establishments, the county is just going to dump them on the Route 1 corridor and bury their heads in the sand," said Kevin Doyle, chairman of the group's zoning and planning committee. "That's not acceptable."

But the amendment's co-sponsors, County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Councilman Darrel E. Drown, say that's not their intention.

"We don't want [adult businesses] there either," Ecker said. "But the courts have ruled that we cannot outlaw the stores -- period. So then we have to try to restrict them to certain areas under certain requirements."

The Howard County legislation is the county's response to the uproar caused by the April opening of the Pack Shack, an adult video and book store on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City.

Concerned citizens successfully persuaded Drown, whose district includes Ellicott City, to draft the amendment.

The most contentious aspect of the amendment is its attempt to restrict such businesses to land zoned only for general business, known as B2 districts, and manufacturing, M1 and M2 -- mainly warehouses and factories in industrial areas away from residential areas.

Zoning officials have estimated that less than 5 percent of the county's 160,000 acres is zoned for business and manufacturing.

Some areas, such as the Mall in Columbia and the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, are zoned for heavy business, but it is unlikely that any adult stores would be placed at such locales.

That leaves the U.S. 1 corridor, where many residents say they don't want sexually oriented businesses near their neighborhoods.

"I wouldn't be happy about having one right around the corner from my house," said Leah Woodbury, a nine-year resident of Jessup who lives about a mile from U.S. 1. But the outrage felt by some residents is secondary to a larger issue -- that of respect.

Local activists say the amendment is just another in a series of perceived slights by county officials, who, residents say, view the eastern part of the county with disdain.

Jessup residents are appealing an April decision by the county Board of Appeals to allow a controversial rock quarry on a 546-acre site off U.S. 1.

Homeowners in North Laurel are battling a proposed Columbia-style village that would include more than 1,400 single-family and multifamily homes on a 522-acre site straddling Interstate 95, south of Gorman Road and north of Route 216.

Elkridge residents successfully fought off a proposed solid waste trash transfer station.

As North Laurel resident Donna Thewes puts it bluntly: "To the county, this part of the county is the armpit."

"This is a real dilemma," said Dennis R. Schrader, who chairs the council. "We need to have some standards about these types of stores in the community, but pushing the problem from one part of the county to another is not the solution."

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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