Howard nears completion of adult businesses bill Council's measure would limit locations

November 27, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

After three months of drafts and postponements, the Howard County Council has put the final touches on a bill to restrict adult entertainment businesses.

Councilman Charles C. Feaga, who represents the western part of the county, filed an amendment Tuesday that would require sexually oriented business -- such as adult video and magazine stores, adult movie theaters, and adult live entertainment clubs -- to be at least 500 feet from a school, day care center, religious facility, library, park or recreation facility.

The restriction likely completes a bill that would also require adult businesses to be at least 500 feet from residential areas, 2,500 feet from other sexually oriented stores, and permitted only in districts zoned for general business, known as B1 and B2.

The council will vote on the legislation Monday despite the request of a new group, the Howard County Alliance to Maintain Community Values, which has asked the council and County Executive Charles I. Ecker to delay the vote while a task force draws up a new bill.

The alliance -- which is composed of some of Ellicott City's largest civic associations, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Men Against Pornography -- contends that Feaga's amendment is a minor addition to what the alliance considers a weak bill.

"They're playing games here," said Barbara Sieg, one of the alliance's organizers and a member of St. John's Community Association.

"They're trying to put small bandages on a big problem."

The legislation stems from the April opening of the Pack Shack, an adult video and magazine store on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City. If the bill is approved, the Pack Shack would be forced to relocate because it is less than 200 feet from an apartment complex.

The county's other adult business, Adult Video & Books on U.S. 1 in Elkridge, would also have to close because the store is in a manufacturing zone, known as M1. Both would have a year to move.

Sieg said the alliance is also asking the council to create an independent task force, headed by a representative from the National Law Center for Children and Families, a nonprofit organization that assists local jurisdictions in restricting adult business.

The task force would draft new legislation by February.

The task force would also include two alliance members, two members from civic groups in Elkridge and North Laurel, two merchants, and a member each from a school, religious institution, day care center and recreational facility, Sieg said.

The alliance argues that the county's legislation is weaker than similar measures in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, which force adult businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from residential areas and in industrial-zoned districts.

But council members have asserted that such a requirement would not withstand a court challenge.

"And we have to get something on the books now," said Councilman Darrel E. Drown, whose district includes Ellicott City.

"The longer we wait, the longer we leave the door open for these businesses to set up shop in Howard County."

The alliance has supported a concept that would include heavy industrial zones -- known as M2 -- in the legislation, which would increase the percentage of county acreage available for adult businesses.

But Kevin Doyle, who chairs the planning and zoning committee for the Elkridge Community Association, said his group is opposed to that idea. He said it would allow adult businesses in Elkridge and other areas on the U.S. 1 corridor where the county's M2 zoning is concentrated.

"When you put in 1,000 feet, you eliminate any B1 or B2 in the county because many homes are less than 1,000 feet from B1 and B2 areas," Doyle said. "Basically, you exclude any business from any place but M2."

Pub Date: 11/27/97

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