Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Adult zone study proposed

Campbell, Kenton counties consider joint measure

By Cindy Schroeder, cschroeder@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — By the end of September, officials in Kenton and Campbell counties will see if their local governments are willing to help pay for a $42,000 study of regulating sexually oriented businesses.

        On Saturday, Kenton and Campbell County attorneys and city and county officials heard a presentation from Eric Damian Kelly, an expert on zoning issues who has proposed studying the feasibility of a multicounty “community” to provide a zone where businesses such as strip clubs and adult bookstores could locate. Mr. Kelly, a vice president of Duncan Associates consulting firm of Austin, Texas, also would review zoning and licensing laws dealing with sexually oriented businesses and develop a model ordinance for governments in Kenton and Campbell counties.

        The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that communities must provide zones for sexually oriented businesses, no matter how undesirable local residents and business owners may find them. By designating a larger area where such businesses can locate, officials in Kenton and Campbell counties — which have a total of 36 cities — hope to balance the First Amendment rights of sexually oriented businesses with community concerns.

        “I think we have a consensus that we need to move forward on this,” said Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, who is chairman of the Sexually Oriented Business Committee, a group of Kenton and Campbell county lawyers and planning officials. “We're talking about a relatively modest amount, considering it would cost a lot more to do (the study) city by city.”

        The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission has agreed to act as the contracting agent with Mr. Kelly, Mr. Edmondson said. The cost would be calculated according to the population of the city or unincorporated county, and would range from $100 for tiny cities like Kenton Vale or Crestview to about $7,500 for Covington.

        “I think it's something that needs to be done,” said Campbell County Attorney Justin Verst. “The (Campbell County) judge-executive and the commissioners haven't weighed in on it yet, but it would certainly be my recommendation that we pursue the study. We need to face these issues and deal with them up front, rather than sit back and wait for something unpleasant to happen.”

        Although the Sexually Oriented Business Committee has met for more than a year, Mr. Edmondson said the issue of multicounty zoning for adult businesses took on a new urgency last month when Covington, which has six strip clubs in its downtown, met resistance in its attempt to allow sexually oriented businesses on a site bordering Park Hills.

        Mr. Edmondson said it should take about six to eight months for Mr. Kelly to do his study. By late fall, Citizens for Community Values will start holding public meetings to explain the laws regulating sexually oriented businesses and to solicit the public's opinions.

        While Mr. Edmondson said that Boone County officials were approached about participating in the study, Boone County Administrator Jim Parsons said officials in that county chose to address the issue several years ago by strengthening zoning laws and making it clear that certain definitions did not include adult businesses.

        “There wasn't a good area in the county where we could say, "This would be a good place to locate these sexually oriented businesses,”' Mr. Parsons said.

        Newport City Manager Phil Ciafardini said his city, which has three adult entertainment establishments where dancers strip down to bikinis, has developed “a pretty good track record over the years in terms of regulating adult businesses,” and is not interested in taking part in the study.

        “Obviously, we were invited to be part of the initial discussions, and I think it was a good two-way exchange,” Mr. Ciafardini said.

        “However, as they go forward and take it to the next level, it doesn't appear that it would apply to us.”


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