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Residents want more curbs on adult businesses

April 16, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Jefferson County, W.Va., residents spoke out against sexually oriented businesses Tuesday night and said a set of proposed regulations developed by county planners to curb such establishments are flawed and do not go far enough to restrict adult businesses.

Speakers at a public hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse asked the Jefferson County Planning Commission to extend a six-month moratorium on adult businesses for another six months and pleaded with the commission to "proceed with enormous caution" on such an important issue.

About 45 people attended the hearing.

"I'm very concerned about this community," said Charles Lott, reminding the planning commission members that part of the reason for having land use laws is to promote the general welfare of a community.

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"I can assure you an adult establishment is going to do nothing to promote the public health in Jefferson County," Lott said.

Planning Commission members did not take action on the proposed regulations and agreed to take up the issue again during a work session on April 29. The planning commission also agreed to continue accepting written comments until April 22.

Paul Raco, head of the Jefferson County Planning, Zoning and Engineering Department, recommended against extending the moratorium on sexually oriented businesses. Extending the moratorium would require re-writing the county's land-use laws and holding another public hearing, Raco said.

After the meeting, planning commission member Rusty Morgan questioned whether the planning commission has fully researched the issue. But Morgan, who also is a Jefferson County Commissioner, said the proposed regulations might be better than not passing anything at all.

The county commissioners will have final say on any new regulations approved by the planning commission.

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

Under the proposed regulations, adult businesses could not be located in the mixed zone, which represents a large area in the county, planning officials have said.

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

One of the zones includes industrial property in Bardane, W.Va. T.A. Lowery Elementary and Jefferson High School are near that zone.

Another zone would be along Blair Road, which turns off U.S. 340 between Charles Town and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.. Another zone would be the property where the Spectratech plant is located in Middleway, W.Va.

The other adult-use zones include property at the edge of the West Virginia and Virginia border along U.S. 340, a small piece of property at the end of the Charles Town Bypass near Rippon, W.Va., and an area north of Ranson, W.Va., near Guy's Buick dealership along W.Va. 9.

Other restrictions that will be placed on adult businesses under the proposal include a requirement that such businesses could not be located within 2,500 feet of each other.

Ray Love, a local minister who spoke at Tuesday's public hearing, praised county officials for the proposed 2,500-foot buffer zone around adult businesses, saying it would prohibit the development of a "red light district."

But Love said the requirement under the proposed regulations that adult businesses be at least 1,000 feet from any residential areas is not enough.

Love said the distance should be at least 2,000 feet.

The way the regulations are worded, it appears that adult businesses could be located along major roadways and possibly across the street from places like churches, Love said.

Love said sexually oriented businesses like strip clubs should be required to be located at least 1,000 feet from a roadway.

"These things need to be pushed aside. I would like to see them gone," Love said.

Allowing sexually oriented businesses in areas along U.S. 340 near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., conflicts with the natural beauty of the area, which acts as an attractive gateway to West Virginia, said Loretta Fischer of Harpers Ferry.

"It doesn't look good for Jefferson County. It doesn't look good for West Virginia," Fischer said.

Reva Hoffmann said one of the reasons she moved to Jefferson County was that it appeared to be a wholesome place to raise her family.

Then one day, Hoffman said, she was driving down the road when her son noticed a sign advertising "Girls, Girls, Girls."

Hoffman said when her son asked what the sign meant, she had to tell him that they stripped off their clothes inside.

Hoffman said her son told her that was "disgusting."

"I know there are people who don't feel that way, but I don't see them here tonight," Hoffman said.

Scot Faulkner of Harpers Ferry said the proposed regulations for adult businesses are flawed because their language is not consistent with state laws that allow counties to regulate such businesses.

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