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Counties tighten squeeze on adult businesses

November 14, 2002

From staff and wire reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Counties across West Virginia are wrestling with ways to regulate adult entertainment businesses.

This morning, the Jefferson County Commissioners are likely to hear a request to ban any new adult businesses in the county for six months.

The ban is designed to give the Jefferson County Planning Commission time to develop new regulations on strip clubs and other related businesses.

The planning commission recommended the six-month ban after about 80 people showed up at a public hearing last Thursday at the Jefferson County Courthouse to rail against what some called the "filthy and disgusting" adult entertainment business.

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The public hearing was held after more than 50 people showed up at a county commission meeting in September to express concerns over a rumor that a strip club was going to be located in a building along U.S. 340 near Shipley Elementary School.

Members of the group vowed to fight any strip club in the area, even though Commissioner Jane Tabb read a letter from the owner of the property saying there are no plans to located a strip club on the property.

Because exotic dance clubs are not regulated in Jefferson County's land-use laws, the commissioners directed the planning commission to hold a public hearing to gather public input on the proposed six-month stay.

Elsewhere in West Virginia, Mercer and Mineral counties have joined other local governments in using a new state law to rein in strip clubs or other sexually oriented businesses.

An ordinance adopted Tuesday by the Mercer County Commission limits where exotic entertainment businesses can be located.

A similar ordinance approved Tuesday by the Mineral County Commission requires owners of sexually oriented businesses to obtain permits. It also limits where such establishments can be located.

Both ordinances stem from a law approved this year by the Legislature that puts the task of regulating sexually oriented businesses in the hands of county commissions.

When Mineral County's first strip club prepared to open earlier this year, residents became outraged and county commissioners demanded more control from state lawmakers. That prompted the Legislature to pass the bill.

Roane, Wood, Nicholas and Hardy counties already have approved policies that limit strip clubs, adult bookstores, video stores and adult toy shops from opening within 2,000 feet of schools, churches, homes, parks, hotels or campgrounds.

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