Vote is expected tonight on bill regulating sites for adult stores

March 16, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's adult video store owners and tattoo artists say they would be ruined, but the County Council is set to vote tonight on a bill that would keep such businesses out of the county's commercial corridors.

The bill, limiting adult entertainment to industrially zoned land, is the latest effort by a suburban area to restrict adult-oriented businesses seen as hurtful to residential neighborhoods. Howard County recently passed a similar law.

The council also is set to vote on a separate measure to regulate new cellular phone towers, an effort some rural residents say is too weak to protect their areas from what they see as a needless intrusion.

Residents in some older neighborhoods also have complained about what they view as the damaging effect of adult-oriented businesses on their communities.

An adult video store on Eastern Boulevard near Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and school in the 1700 block of Old Eastern Ave. "is a constant reminder of the deterioration of our community," the Rev. Robert L. Hartnett told the council at a work session last week.

He called the store "a visual sign that contradicts the verbal statements about the revitalization of older neighborhoods."

But owners of some video stores see things differently.

David Dritz, who owns the four-location Movie Sales video stores in Timonium, Loch Raven, Woodlawn and Owings Mills, said his stores don't advertise the adult half of their inventory, which is kept out of sight in the back.

"We're not really an adult business," said Dritz. But he said he needs the adult videos to compete with the big chain video stores, which don't carry X-rated items. "That gives us the edge," he said.

Dritz would not qualify for an exemption in the proposed law for stores with 20 percent or less stock devoted to adult videos. His stores have about 50 percent or more, he said, and together they earn $1.5 million a year. Similar complaints have come from video store owners in Arbutus and Essex.

"We need drive-by traffic," Dritz said, protesting the bill's provisions that would force him to find scarce -- and often remote -- industrial locations at least 2,500 feet from any other adult business.

Tattoo artists also criticize the bill.

"We run a clean, family-oriented business," says Bruce Benkert, owner of Mr. B's Tattoos in the 7500 block of Belair Road.

Several councilmen expressed sympathy for Dritz, but county officials say the county has more than 13,000 acres of industrially zoned land where adult businesses could potentially move.

The controversy over new wireless phone towers is no less heated.

The county is limited by federal laws that prevent any outright ban of 200-foot-high wireless communications towers.

The county is considering a bill that would use less stringent technical regulations to encourage the use of existing structures and commercial areas for antennas. Through tougher standards and closer scrutiny, the bill also would discourage construction of towers in residential or rural areas.

Pub Date: 3/16/98

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