Ocean City, Md., Has Plan to Zone Sex Shops Out

Tod Hunter
OCEAN CITY, Md. — Following its April moratorium on business licenses for adult businesses, the Planning and Zoning Commission of Ocean City, Md. recommended a zoning code amendment restricting sexually oriented businesses out of 99 percent of the town, according to the Delmarva Daily Times. The recommendation to the mayor and council came after a sparsely attended public hearing Tuesday night.

Director of Planning Jesse Houston said about 1 percent of the town falls under the available area for adult businesses. Houston said the main concern was not the businesses themselves, but the secondary effects on the areas surrounding the businesses. Houston cited summaries of almost 40 studies on the effects of sexually oriented businesses on surrounding areas, and said there was ample evidence that the stores are a detriment.

“It’s clear Ocean City has a very important residential community it needs to protect,” Lauren Taylor, a member of the commission, said, adding that adult businesses would be a detriment to the business community as well as the city’s main business of tourism.

Limitations recommended by the amendment would prevent sexually oriented businesses from being established within 600 feet of a building used for religious worship or activities, public or private education facility, a public park, entertainment businesses directed at children such as miniature golf courses, dry night clubs, the oceanfront Boardwalk and the possible bayside Boardwalk, as well as public beaches.

Sexually oriented businesses must be separated from each other by 600 feet, measured by the property line, and must be at least 150 feet from any dwelling. Adult businesses are further restricted to areas zoned for local commercial or shopping center use.

The code amendment also addresses non-conforming uses or sexually oriented businesses already established, including a shop that recently opened offering adult movies, sex toys and lingerie to patrons 18 years and older.

The planning commission’s recommendation is expected to be presented at a council work session for discussion before an ordinance is drafted. An ordinance will go through two readings by the council.