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City Council restricts adult entertainment

Wichita, Kansas- For a time Tuesday, it appeared that the city’s effort to minimize the presence of adult businesses in Wichita might stall.

Two City Council members — Sharon Fearey and Carl Brewer — said proposed zoning laws might just force sex-oriented businesses to move across town, including to the 21st Street area where the city is spending tens of millions of dollars on redevelopment.

Other members were concerned that giving the businesses only one year to close or relocate might increase the city’s chances of being sued.

But Mayor Carlos Mayans said there are no perfect laws and offered a compromise: give the businesses two years to close or relocate.

The ordinance then passed 5-2, with Brewer and Fearey in opposition.

“This is a starting point,” Mayans said. “It is not the end all.”

Pete Dominguez of Operation Southwind, a group opposing adult businesses in Wichita, asked the council to increase the 500-foot buffer zones to 1,000 feet.

“My personal opinion is I’d like 1,000 feet in the air,” he said. “That way nobody would be able to hide.”

If the zoning changes are affirmed in a second reading later this month, at least eight adult book and video stores will have two years to close or relocate.

The stores will be restricted to three zoning areas. That will limit them to two stretches on Kellogg west of I-235 and east of Webb; large areas just east of I-235 and south of Kellogg; and areas west of I-135 and north of 13th Street.

The shops will have to be 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. But churches, schools, day care centers, parks and residential areas will not be able to move within 500 feet of them once they are established.

Charlie O’Hara, a Wichita lawyer who has represented adult businesses in the past, said he expects a lawsuit over the proposed laws.

“I think it’s fundamentally wrong,” O’Hara said. “They’re just picking on these businesses. It’s all political. It’s a very sad day.”

He said giving the businesses two years to close instead of one will not improve the city’s chances of winning a lawsuit, and he said that if the city loses a case it could be responsible for paying relocation costs, legal fees for remedying broken leases and reimbursement for loss of business.

“Just think of the implications of this,” he said. “It’s surprising that elected officials would do something like that to anyone in our city.”

No adult business representatives commented and calls from The Eagle to several owners and managers were not returned.

Council member Brewer wanted the city to spend more time creating the new law.

He said he doesn’t want adult businesses in his neighborhood. But, he said, the council needs to recognize the businesses’ rights and not categorize their clients.

“Not every single person that goes to these places has sexual problems,” he said. “Some of them are going to your church.”

 

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