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Hearing brings out adult business foes

June 24, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. - More than 200 people turned out at a public hearing Wednesday night at Musselman High School to make impassioned pleas to county officials to control the spread of strip clubs and other adult businesses in Berkeley County.

Saying it is time to "take back our county," county residents spoke in favor of a proposed county law that would prohibit "exotic entertainment" businesses from locating within 2,000 feet of establishments such as schools, churches, parks and recreation areas, hotels and motels and homes.

County residents expressed concern about the number of adult businesses that already have set up in Berkeley County and said they are concerned about how the businesses are affecting land values.

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Del. John Overington said it is peculiar how Berkeley County has attracted what other states are not allowing, such as landfills, strip clubs and gambling parlors.

"What's at stake is the quality of life in Berkeley County," said Overington, R-Berkeley.

Richard Talbott said he has counted 11 strip clubs in Berkeley County. There are not that many strip clubs in all the counties that surround Berkeley County, Talbott said.

"I'm kind of wondering why we are becoming the center point for this type activity," Talbott said.

The public hearing was held by the Berkeley County Planning Commission. The planning commission, which is reviewing the proposed exotic entertainment ordinance, will continue to accept written comments on the proposal for two weeks, said planning commission member Steve Teufel.

The planning commission will make a recommendation to the Berkeley County Commission regarding the proposal, Commissioner Howard Strauss said.

Although a controversy has been brewing over a proposal to open an adult bookstore and lingerie shop across the street from Bunker Hill Elementary School, Teufel said the proposed ordinance was being considered before that.

Alan Jackson, who owns the building where the Slightly Sinful shop would be housed, spoke at Wednesday's public hearing. He expressed concern about the county commissioners passing other laws regulating businesses that people might not like, such as gun shops.

Jackson said he believes such proposed laws should be put up for a referendum.

Although his idea drew applause from some people in the crowd, it was nothing like the overwhelming applause given to people who supported the proposed exotic entertainment law.

Speakers expressed concern about the "brazen indifference" of someone who wants to put an adult business near a school and said they are worried about how strip clubs will affect children's view of sex, possibly leading them to think that having sex with anyone is OK.

"We're mad and we're not going to take it anymore," said Bunker Hill resident Teresa Kincaid.

Many of the speakers were members of a group that calls itself Community Against Slightly Sinful, or CASS.

Lavarr McBride, who spoke on behalf of CASS, called for the planning commission to implement a six-month moratorium on exotic businesses until a law regulating them is in place.

McBride, who also led an effort to control such businesses in Jefferson County, said the Berkeley County Commissioners can go further with their law by prohibiting nude dancing in the county and regulating what type of signs adult businesses can have.

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