Baltimore County seeking new restrictions on adult businesses

Some would have to move under proposal

May 18, 2010|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Some adult businesses in Baltimore County would have to move their businesses if lawmakers succeed in passing new rules intended to limit children's exposure to sexually explicit material.

A bill before the county council would restrict businesses that deal in sexually explicit materials to nonresidential and noncommercial areas, such as warehouse complexes.

All such businesses, including video stores and massage and tattoo parlors, would have to be at least 1,000 feet from any residences or community establishments such as schools, churches or day-care centers.

Mainstream video stores, meanwhile, would be required to reduce their adult merchandise from a maximum of 20 percent to no more than 5 percent of inventory.

"Businesses are using a loophole in the law to bring adult videos into communities," said Council Chairman John Olszewski, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Councilman Sam Moxley. "It is important to limit those operations and get them out of communities."

Moxley said he is concerned about the proximity between adult businesses and residential neighborhoods and other businesses.

"It was never my intent to do away with these stores," he said. "I know this is a First Amendment issue. But we have to limit operations. If this entertainment is your choice, that's fine, but you cannot pursue it close to home."

Moxley said several of his constituents have complained to him about a video store in Catonsville that installed viewing booths with peepholes and clear glass areas. Several council members say they want to eliminate booths, but will await a legal opinion before including that concept in the bill.

Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said such businesses should not be allowed to impact surrounding areas.

"This bill is consistent with what we have done with pawn shops and businesses with a high volume of alcohol," he said. "Removing them avoids the stigma that they are evidence of declining neighborhoods."

The council expects to vote on the proposal at its May 27 session. If it passes, it would take effect on June 9. Businesses affected by the changes would have a year to either relocate or reduce their adult material to 5 percent of inventory.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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