Ocean City, Maryland, Passes Sex Store Ban

Tod Hunter
OCEAN CITY, Md. — The Ocean City Council formalized a moratorium on business licenses issued to sexually explicit stores this week, according to a story in the Delmarva Daily Times. The moratorium comes after an adult boutique selling movies, sex toys and lingerie opened in the town a few weeks ago. There were no provisions in city law at the time that could have prevented the store from opening.

Blaine Smith, city zoning administrator, said the store's owners followed the routine procedures for a business license including passing inspections by the building inspector and the fire marshal.

The resolution specifically defines everything it regulates, from adult book stores and adult motels to nudity and specified sexual activities. In the resolution, a sexually oriented business is defined as "an adult arcade, adult book store, adult video store, adult cabaret, adult motel, adult motion picture theater, adult theater, escort agency, semi-nude model studio or sexual encounter center." The businesses that are considered sexually oriented are further defined in the document.

"When you're dealing with 1st Amendment rights, the court looks for vagueness," City Solicitor Guy Ayres told the Daily News, explaining that restricting licensing of sexually oriented businesses would raise the question: "What is a sexually oriented business?"< p> On March 27, the Ocean City Council instructed the town licensing office not to issue any business licenses to sexually oriented stores. The council also requested the Planning and Zoning Commission develop zoning and business regulations that could be applied. "The feeling of the council was since they had remanded the issue to the town Planning and Zoning Commission for review to develop regulations to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community, it's a good idea to make sure no other stores of this type open prior to the regulations," Mayor Rick Meehan said.

The moratorium will expire in six months, or when regulations are developed by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Two city officials are currently researching what zoning and business licensing regulations could be put into place. According to the resolution, restrictions will also apply to location and operation. Restrictions as to location would have to permit adult stores somewhere in the city since the stores are constitutionally protected.

A public hearing to consider possible regulations will be held May 1.