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Ormond being proactive to restrict adult businesses

ORMOND BEACH — From 1991 until a few weeks ago, Ormond Beach had a law that banned all sexually oriented businesses.

Before 1991, there were no laws on the books that governed strip clubs, adult bookstores and similar X-rated operations.

If someone had tried to open a gentlemen’s club in Ormond Beach during all those years and was turned down, he or she could have won a court argument about their First Amendment rights being violated and walked away with a tidy sum of damages.

That person also could have located pretty much anywhere he or she wanted inside the city limits, and operated how they wanted, and there would have been no city laws to stop them.

That was the nightmare scenario city officials remedied earlier this month when they passed two new ordinances. The new city laws set up licensing requirements and rules for where and how a sexually oriented business can operate.

City commissioners say they’re not actively recruiting businesses that feature exotic dancers or erotic videos, and no one is trying to open up anything like that in the city. Commissioners say they’re just protecting Ormond Beach from lawsuits and adult entertainment run amok.

“Instead of leaving ourselves open to catching that disease, this is like an inoculation,” said City Commissioner Bill Partington, an attorney. “I wasn’t thrilled about voting for it, but I felt it was the responsible thing to do.”

Ormond Beach officials decided to take action while watching the protracted legal battles Daytona Beach had with some of its nightclubs and adult bookstores. When Daytona Beach’s laws governing sexually oriented businesses were upheld by a federal appeals court this spring, Ormond Beach decided to craft similar legislation that would be on sound legal footing.

“No one wanted to be the receiving ground for what Daytona Beach pushed out,” said city Planning Director Ric Goss. “There’s a lot we learned from the Daytona experience. And we know their court decision was the latest and greatest, so we based our ordinance on that.”

Ormond Beach’s laws are now probably tough enough and cumbersome enough that some adult establishments would look elsewhere for a new location, Partington said. Mayor Fred Costello would be happy to see those prospective operations move on.

“If ever they want to come in to one of our locations, I’ll lead the charge to have the public protest and line the streets, whatever we need to do,” Costello said. “This is a positive strong move, not a retreat.”

But the mayor hopes there’s never a need for that type of standoff. The city’s attorneys say Ormond Beach has some of the toughest rules in Florida.

“And that’s my goal,” Costello said. “I do not want to have a stronger ordinance that would get thrown out, which opens the doors that they can go anywhere. I want the strongest defensible ordinance.”

Although Ormond does have stern rules, it doesn’t appear to be too drastically different from some other local cities. Alcohol will be banned in any adult business that opens in Ormond Beach, the same practice employed in New Smyrna Beach. In DeLand and Daytona Beach, alcohol can be served only if employees are wearing at least the equivalent of a bikini.

The Ormond Beach establishments would have to be at least 500 feet from churches, schools, child care facilities, residentially zoned districts, public recreation facilities and other sexually oriented businesses. They’d have to be 250 feet from businesses that sell or serve alcohol.

There are about 20 locations in Ormond Beach that would work, Goss said. Most of those sites are on the north end of U.S. 1 and the rest are along the south stretch of U.S. 1 and near the intersection of Williamson and Granada boulevards, Goss said.

Ormond Beach chose to scatter the available sites to protect property values, which can drop around a red-light district, Goss said. But other local cities, such as New Smyrna Beach and DeLand, chose to concentrate adult-entertainment businesses in one area of their towns.

Daytona Beach has had sexually oriented business laws since 1981, DeLand enacted its rules for adult-entertainment establishments in 1994, and New Smyrna Beach revised its rules in 2005.

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