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Adult video store loses court battle

September 06, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The attorney for a Hagerstown adult bookstore said he would appeal a judge's decision Wednesday that stated the business is operating in violation of city zoning laws.

Howard J. Schulman, attorney for the owners of The Video Store at 23 E. Washington St., said he would file the appeal within 30 days.

The decision, made by Washington County Circuit Court Judge John H. McDowell, upheld one that was handed down earlier this year by the City of Hagerstown's Board of Zoning Appeals.

When The Video Store opened, it was acceptable for adult businesses to operate in C3 districts.

After the new zoning laws were passed, however, The Video Store and city officials began arguing in 2005 whether the business should move from its current home in a C3 (central commercial) zoning district, which prohibits adult businesses, to a C2 (commercial general) zoning district.

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The city maintained adult businesses could operate legally in several C2 districts across the city. The Video Store disagreed, saying a majority of the C2 districts contained too many restrictions, such as churches and schools.

The city's zoning ordinance prohibits adult businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of churches, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, parks and multi-family dwellings.

The Video Store went so far as to hire an expert to identify where the restrictions existed.

According to court documents, the expert said only eight of the city's 40 C2 sites were acceptable for adult businesses.

But in his decision, McDowell said C2 districts offered "sufficient and reasonable opportunities" for adult bookstores.

In April, Schulman said the city violated The Video Store's right to free speech by reducing the business' hours of operation.

He said The Video Store would not relocate and the city should "tread lightly" with further legal proceedings.

City Attorney Mark Boyer could not be reached for comment.

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