Protesters urge tougher rules on adult stores Council members favor less restrictive alternative

November 25, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

About 35 protesters gathered outside Howard County's main office building last night to urge sharper restrictions on adult book and video stores.

Waving placards that said, "Back to the drawing board" and "There is no substitute for political courage," the protesters called on the County Council to amend a proposed measure and require adult shops be at least 1,000 feet from homes.

But county lawyers warn that courts have overturned such restrictions elsewhere. Most council members favor allowing shops no closer than 400 feet from homes, a proposal that is more likely to survive a court challenge.

"Why don't we just say a thousand feet and fight it in court?" Ellicott City resident Cynthia Cuzmanes said to Councilman Darrel E. Drown. "We want you to try it for us. We want you to fight it for us."

An Ellicott City Republican and the only council member to directly address the crowd, Drown replied, "If I could do a thousand feet and know I could get away with it, I would do it tomorrow."

Council members are caught between political pressure and the threat of a lawsuit. But they also face regional conflicts.

An earlier version of the proposal that allowed the shops mainly in manufacturing areas along the U.S. 1 corridor from Laurel to Elkridge infuriated residents in those areas.

Now the council is close to a compromise that would allow adult shops in most areas where stores and offices are allowed, but the adult shops would have to be at least 400 feet from homes and at least 1,000 feet from each other.

That was not good enough for last night's protesters, most of whom were from Ellicott City, which already has an adult shop on U.S. 40. Several protesters said they want the proposed measure changed to allow adult shops in manufacturing areas along U.S. 1.

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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