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West Virginia gets Tough on Porn

ROANOKE, Va. — The man who may have single-handedly touched off the great porn black out of western Virginia happens to be a proponent of the stuff.

Actually, Dan Bickley sells the smut magazines, pornographic videos and sex toys currently under attack in some parts of the commonwealth. And it was his successful race to open a Bristol store specializing in “adult novelties” in April–days before the city council could impose regulations on him–that brought out the anti-porn brigade to begin with.

From Abingdon to Harrisonburg and everywhere in between, local governments are hustling to restrict adult businesses, citing “secondary effects” they argue include increased crime and lower property value in areas near strip clubs and other “blue” venues.

They seek to regulate how close businesses can be to things like residential neighborhoods or churches, playgrounds and libraries. Some localities even require the business owner obtain permission from the police chief before setting up shop.

The goal in places like Pulaski County, is to keep the less than conventional businesses on the periphery of polite society.

“I was pretty much given directions by the Board (of Supervisors) to put some strict limitations on where these businesses can go,” said David Tickner, community development director for Pulaski County, which adopted its adult-business ordinance several weeks ago. “If someone were to come with an application now, we have some standards.”

Starting in June and building ever since, similar restrictions have popped up in Harrisonburg, Washington County and Marion. Roanoke County adopted its adult business ordinance in October. So did Radford and Smyth County. Wytheville, Pulaski and Pulaski County have penned similar legislation since December.

Dublin and Damascus are next; both will take action to either write or discuss similar ordinances within the next few weeks.

Decades ago, courts tended to err on the side of adult store owners, favoring their First Amendment rights. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the secondary affects cities had long credited to adult businesses has emboldened local governments to act against the businesses.

“It’s not regulating free speech,” John Murphy, Roanoke County’s zoning administrator, said of his county’s 4-month-old ordinance. “We said, we’ll allow these in commercial zones, with special-use permits.”

If Bickley’s any indication, adult store owners are taking the new rules in stride. He said his plans for expanding “Exotic Illusions” will charge ahead full steam.

Opening up an adult playland near a church or school isn’t worth his while anyhow.

“At the end of the day, I don’t want to be within 500 feet of a church or a playground,” he said. “They’re not our clientele — they’re either too old or too young.”

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