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Judge puts off ruling on adult book store

October 28, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A Washington County Circuit judge held off Friday on ruling whether to uphold a Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals decision that a downtown adult store is in violation of the city's zoning ordinance.

The Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals in April upheld Hagerstown Zoning Administrator Steve Bockmiller's decision to issue a violation notice to The Video Store, at 23 E. Washington St., but attorneys for the bookstore appealed the decision to Circuit Court.

On Friday, Howard Schulman, an attorney for 104 W. Washington St. II Corp., the store's owner, argued before Circuit Judge John H. McDowell that the board did not base its ruling on fact, and did not determine whether or not the store fits the ordinance description of an "adult bookstore."

The board's opinion, he argued, "Doesn't tell us why it quacks like a duck."

The city allows adult bookstores in C-2 (commercial general) zones, but not within 1,000 feet of the property boundary lines for a church, school, park, hospital, nursing home, public or quasipublic facility for senior citizens or "similar land uses for human care and needs," The Herald-Mail has reported.

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The city ordinance defines an adult business as one with at least 5 percent of its stock in merchandise depicting "specified sexual activities" or "specified anatomical areas," according to published reports. Both phrases are defined in the city's zoning ordinance.

City Attorney Mark K. Boyer said Friday that there are a number of sites - between eight and 22 - within the city with the proper zoning to which the store could move.

"Clearly, there is ample opportunity for a business such as this to relocate in Hagerstown," Boyer said.

Schulman argued the options weren't detailed alternatives.

McDowell said he would issue his opinion in writing in about a week.

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