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County may derail adult store

Goshen, California- Plans to open an adult novelty store in Goshen may be put on hold if the Tulare County Supervisors vote Tuesday to approve an interim zoning ordinance that would put a 45-day hold on the county granting licenses to adult-oriented businesses.

Listed as an “emergency measure” in a report submitted to the supervisors, the vote comes after members of the Goshen Planning Committee and other residents asked the supervisors on Tuesday to help stop an adult store from opening. The store, Wild Willy’s, would sell, among other things, lingerie, adult videos, magazines and other adult-oriented items just a few blocks from Goshen Elementary School.

Renovations already are under way to convert a former Mexican restaurant on the west side of the Highway 99 frontage road and Harvest Avenue.

In addition, said Cheryl Smith, a member of the Planning Committee, the store would be in plain sight of children walking over the Highway 99 overcrossing on their way to and from school.

But William Ball of Visalia, who wants to start the business, said there will be no signs, posters or anything else outside the store to indicate to anyone what’s sold inside.

“They’ve been looking at the back of the building for 40 years, and that’s not going to change,” said Ball, adding he also would sell bicycles and modern art.

He said he has spent about $10,000 to renovate the building so far, along with the $3,000-a-month rent he has paid since April.

“I don’t see what’s the big problem here, I’m catering to over-21 [customers],” Ball said, adding that his store wouldn’t be like the hard-core adult book and video stores in Southern California and the Bay Area.

As for the board’s decision to consider a moratorium on adult-oriented business licenses, Ball said, “I don’t think that’s fair. It seems like they are singling me out. I’m complying with what they’ve already written” in the county’s 2004 ordinance on licensing adult-oriented businesses.

This isn’t the first time the supervisors have taken action to impose limits on an adult-oriented businesses in the unincorporated areas.

The board spent two years developing such an ordinance after efforts began in 2002 to open a strip club west of Visalia. Sugar Daddy’s Gentleman’s Club did open that year.

Two years later, the supervisors passed its adult-oriented business ordinance. But the supervisors did not pass any zoning restrictions on where adult-oriented businesses could locate.

The city of Visalia passed an ordinance in 1999 with such restrictions, prohibiting adult-oriented businesses from setting up shop within 750 feet of schools.

Supervisor Steve Worthley said that when the county ordinance was being developed, “it was felt the immediate priority was the operational issues,” which included conduct of strippers and what parts of their body they had to keep covered, security, noise restrictions, age limits for patrons and hours of operation.

What they didn’t consider was zoning, or where these businesses can or can’t set up shop.

As for Ball’s claim that he is being singled out, Worthley, who represents Goshen on the board and put the interim zoning matter on Tuesday’s agenda, said, “I don’t think we’re targeting him. But I think he is bringing the matter back to our attention.”

Worthley said he will support the 45-day moratorium while the county Resource Management Agency develops an amendment that would put restrictions on where adult-oriented businesses can operate.

If it passes Tuesday, the moratorium would take effect immediately.

And after the 45 days are up, the board will have the option to extend it for 10 months, 15 days more, and another year after that.

“We like that. That’s what we asked for,” said Smith, who praised the board for reacting so quickly to Goshen residents’ concerns.

“And we’ve been fighting gangs and crimes and drugs in our community, and we don’t need to fight an adult novelty store in our community, too,” he said.

Another concerns is that an adult novelty store would repel other businesses that residents want to see locate in Goshen, said Kathy Garza, another Goshen resident. “Would you go to a McDonald’s next to an adult novelty store?”

The interim ordinance could pass Tuesday if only four of the five supervisors vote yes.

Worthley said he didn’t know how his fellow supervisors may vote, but Supervisor Phil Cox said Friday that he wasn’t ready to take a side on the issue.

“I’m a real strong advocate of owners’ property rights, so I’m underlining things in the [interim] ordinance” to ask county staff about before making a decision, Cox said.

He said he also wants to ask why it has taken so long to address the zoning aspects of adult-oriented businesses. Cox said that when he started on the board in January, he discussed the matter with RMA officials.

“I think that’s an important element that maybe we could have addressed earlier, and it needs to be addressed now.”

Ball said he will attend Tuesday’s board meeting and offer his comments on the issue.

“I’m a good businessman, and I’m going to work hard to make this work,” said Ball, who owns a business that supplies and installs pay phones.

If the supervisors’ vote prevents him from getting his business license, Ball said, “I’d be forced to take legal action,” and he may still be able to open and operate until the legal fight is settled.

“I want to add to this community. And if they keep kicking me, it’s kind of tough, but I’m going to go forward,” he said.

 

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