Holbrook relocates its adult district

Massachusetts- Holbrook voters have decided to relocate the town’s adult-entertainment district.

Of course, one would be hard-pressed to find an X-rated video store or strip joint within Holbrook’s 7 square miles, because there aren’t any. But like many suburban communities, Holbrook’s bylaws address such businesses anyway, just in case.

Without a designated area, sexually oriented businesses ”can go anywhere they want to go,” explained Holbrook Town Clerk Shirley Austin.

For the past 10 years, Holbrook’s adult-entertainment business district has been designated as North Franklin Street (Route 37) near the old police station. On Monday, Special Town Meeting approved moving the district west by a mile to Mear Road, a dead-end street near the Randolph town line.

Mear Road is an industrial park that ”wouldn’t be a draw for that type of thing,” said Selectman David H. Holden. ”The idea is to keep it out of sight, out of mind.”

Holbrook is one of many Massachusetts municipalities that employ tight zoning rules to deter strip clubs, X-rated video stores, and other unsavory businesses from opening shop in their front yards. Soon after adult video stores opened in Dedham and Weymouth in the 1990s, Holbrook was one of many suburban towns that rushed to put adult-entertainment zoning rules on their books. Holbrook, East Bridgewater, Norwood, Walpole, and Weymouth were among more than 30 municipalities to pass zoning laws during that time.

Since January 2004, nine more towns in Massachusetts have passed bylaws regarding zoning of sexually oriented businesses, according to the attorney general’s office.

Canton was one of them. This past April, voters there decided to limit adult-entertainment businesses to industrially zoned areas and prohibit them from being within 500 feet of a home, church, school, or recreation facility. The new bylaw also restricts the size of their business signs.

Holbrook originally established its adult entertainment zone in 1995, according to town clerk records.

This fall, the Holbrook Police Department and Fire Department started moving into new public safety headquarters on South Franklin Street, so town officials said they no longer needed the old police station and the fire station on South Street, in the Brookville section of town.

Holbrook officials are considering selling the old police station, and some adjoining town-owned property. A potential buyer has proposed locating a nursing home or assisted-living facility there. As a result, town officials decided to change the zoning to move the adult-entertainment district away from North Franklin Street.

On Monday night, voters at Special Town Meeting granted the Board of Selectmen permission to sell those surplus town-owned properties. They also gave approval to rezone the former police station property to allow for an assisted-living facility and move the town’s adult entertainment district to Mear Road.

”An assisted-living facility or nursing home was something that was palatable to the neighbors,” Selectman Richard McGaughey said.

However, some residents expressed concern about moving the adult-entertainment district to Mear Road, McGaughey said. They are wary about tucking the district away in a relatively isolated area and farther from the new public safety headquarters. There are no houses on Mear Road and only a handful of businesses, including a metalworking plant, a steel company, and a furniture warehouse. The closest houses are located on Water Street and Union Road.

”Some people were saying that no one is around to watch” if an adult-entertainment business moved in, McGaughey said.

But town officials say that’s exactly why the spot was chosen. ”Our argument is, no one wants to watch it,” McGaughey said.

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