Wichita, Kan., Facing New Year's Adult Store Showdown

Wichita, Kan., Facing New Year's Adult Store Showdown
Tod Hunter
WICHITA, Kan. — A 2005 zoning law that takes effect at the end of the year, forcing adult businesses to relocate or close down, will reportedly be ignored.

Local attorney Charlie O'Hara, who has represented those businesses, said he and some storeowners don't believe the city has the right to displace established businesses.

"I guess it's OK to look at it on the Internet at home, but it's not OK to go to a store, bring it home and look at it," O'Hara said.

The law, which limits businesses with adult entertainment licenses to areas zoned for limited industrial and commercial development, will force at least three stores to close, relocate or test the city's willingness to take the store owners to court.

The law, approved by the city council in 2005, restricts adult entertainment businesses to industrially or commercially zoned areas, and more than 500 feet from churches, schools, licensed day care centers, public parks, residential districts, the old-town entertainment district and other sex-oriented businesses. The law does not allow a church or day care to move into an area and force the adult video stores out.

Local antiporn activist Jan Beemer, who campaigned to close the stores, said that people who live near the shops have to deal with decreased property values and other secondary effects.

"We expect the city to make sure the law is enforced," she said. "You get rid of them, your crime goes down."

Attempts by reporters to reach several owners and operators of Wichita's adult video stores were unsuccessful.

To fall within the new zoning law, a store's "principal business purposes" must be selling items that "depict or describe 'specified sexual activities' or 'specified anatomical areas,'" according to city code.

Beemer, president of antiporn group Operation Southwind, said the group wants stricter city laws that classify stores with a certain percentage of floor space or inventory as adult entertainment businesses, which would be subject to the new zoning laws.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Kelly Rundell told reporters she couldn't comment on whether the city will file lawsuits at its first opportunity in early 2008.

O'Hara hasn't heard of the city filing lawsuits, but he told reporters he'll be ready.

"I assume if they try to do it we'll be back in court," O'Hara said.