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Public hearing set on proposed strip club restrictions

April 10, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County resident concerned about a set of new regulations designed to curb sexually related businesses in the county said he expects a large number of people to join him at a public hearing on the proposal next week.

The Jefferson County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Jefferson County Courthouse to gather comments about the new regulations.

Sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs currently can be located in the county's commercial and industrial zones or the mixed zone that allows commercial and residential development.

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Under the new proposal, adult businesses cannot be located in the mixed zone, which represents a large area in the county, planning commission officials have said.

That leaves the industrial areas, which make up much of the zones for the adult businesses, planning officials have said.

Other restrictions that would be placed on adult businesses under the proposal include a requirement that such businesses cannot be within 2,500 feet of each other, planning officials said.

Lavarr McBride, a county resident who has been concerned about the spread of sexually oriented businesses in the area, said the proposed regulations are "a very good start," but they do not go far enough.

McBride said he wants the planning commission to restrict what kind of activities can go on inside strip bars. McBride said the planning commission can make restrictions such as only allowing semi-nude dancing instead of nude dancing in strip clubs and prohibiting lap dancing.

The hours that strip clubs operate also can be restricted, McBride said, adding that such restrictions can convince strip bar owners not to locate in an area.

McBride said the courts have ruled that such restrictions do not violate First Amendment rights.

"I just think they owe it to the community to address these things," McBride said Wednesday.

Court challenges is an issue planning commission officials have taken into consideration.

Former Chief Planner Stephen R. Bockmiller said planners tried to come up with the most restrictive proposals without ending up with a plan that would spur a court case.

"You can't restrict them all the way out because it's kind of unconstitutional," Planning Commission President Arnold W. Dailey Jr. said Wednesday.

Bockmiller said the proposal, if passed by the Jefferson County Planning Commission, probably will be in effect only for about nine months since the county is developing a new comprehensive plan.

Dailey declined to say whether he believes the regulations for adult businesses would be changed under the new plan.

Any new regulations approved by the planning commission will go to the Jefferson County Commission for consideration, Dailey said.

Some county residents began expressing concern about sexually oriented businesses in the county following a rumor that a strip club was going to be located in a building along U.S. 340 near Shipley Elementary School.

Although the owner of the property said there were no plans to put a strip club in the building, a group of people in the county has pushed county officials to develop regulations to heavily regulate adult businesses.

The county commission later approved a six-month ban on any new adult businesses in the county to give the planning commission time to develop regulations for adult businesses.

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