Federal judge leaves ruling against adult business intact

Owner challenged law limiting locations of sexually oriented stores

July 01, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Howard County is inching its way toward closing one adult entertainment business.

Chief Judge J. Frederick Motz of the U.S. District Court in Baltimore rejected a request by Nathaniel Lightfoot Inc. to reconsider his ruling against the company, which operates as Adult Video & Books in the 7400 block of U.S. 1 in Elkridge.

In the August decision, Motz sided with the county in ruling that the sexually oriented store did not have standing to challenge a county ordinance regulating adult entertainment businesses because it was already in an M2 -- or heavy industrial -- district, which is prohibited from housing retail businesses.

That law, adopted in December 1996, confines adult bookstores, movie theaters and live entertainment clubs to general business areas, known as B1 and B2 districts.

The statute also requires such businesses to be at least 500 feet from residential neighborhoods, churches, day care centers, libraries, parks and schools and at least 2,500 feet from any other sexually oriented store.

Motz denied the company's request for reconsideration April 27.

Howard J. Schulman, a Baltimore attorney representing the adult store, said his client is not discouraged by the federal court's ruling.

Deputy County Solicitor Paul Johnson said the Circuit Court has yet to review an Aug. 27 county Board of Appeals decision ordering the store to shut down.

"It's a slow process," Johnson said. "You go from step A to step B and follow it up. We're proceeding along with enforcement."

Nathaniel Lightfoot withdrew in March a $500,000 lawsuit against William F. O'Brien alleging that the chief of comprehensive planning and zoning for the county Department Planning and Zoning abused his power by trying to put the store out of business and infringe on its right to free speech.

In a related matter, Circuit Court Judge James B. Dudley has set a Dec. 14 hearing on an injunction request by Pack Shack Inc. to block the county from forcing the store to move from its location on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City.

Pub Date: 7/01/99

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