Law restricting adult businesses goes to high court

January 04, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for Howard County and the Pack Shack took their long-running debate over the constitutionality of the county's adult business ordinance before the state's highest court yesterday for a judicial review with potential to affect similar laws elsewhere.

In oral arguments before the Court of Appeals yesterday, lawyers for the Ellicott City business, who have been sparring with county officials for more than four years, said the 1997 law violates the Pack Shack owners' First Amendment rights and was created to drive it and a second adult store in the county out of business.

"It's all directed at those two," said Howard J. Schulman, the attorney representing Pack Shack. "That's what makes it unique."

But Senior Assistant County Solicitor Louis P. Ruzzi told the court that the law restricts where such stores can operate -- in certain business zones and at least 500 feet from residential areas, schools, daycare centers and other such facilities -- and requires owners to obtain a permit. The Pack Shack, which opened on U.S. 40 in April 1997, is 165 feet from the Normandy Woods apartments.

In court papers, Schulman argues that the zoning requirements make it nearly impossible to find a legal location for the business, a contention the county disputes, saying more than 100 potential sites are available.

The court agreed to review the law after a Howard Circuit Court judge and the Court of Special Appeals issued rulings that upheld the ordinance.

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