By CHRISTOPHER BROOKE – Galax Gazette
January 12, 2007
HILLSVILLE, VA - One Carroll citizen supported tough measures against adult-oriented businesses through a county ordinance Tuesday, and the American Association for Nude Recreation suggested wording changes to make it less restrictive.
The Carroll supervisors held a public hearing on a proposed adult business and community standards ordinance, the latest iteration of an ordinance that started out to ban public nudity and obscenity.
County Attorney Brad Dalton felt that the original ordinance offered no additional protection against adult businesses locating in Carroll, and recommended an ordinance based on laws he found being used in Roanoke and Giles counties.
Dalton reported at the regular January meeting that he had received feedback on the proposed ordinance from a nude recreation association based in Kissimmee, Fla.
The association faxed to the county attorney a couple suggestions for legal language changes, including a proposed exemption for members of its society.
“No person shall be in violation of this section in or at a club event sanctioned under legal association with the American Association for Nude Recreation,” a representative for the club wrote out by hand and sent to Dalton. [A tad self-serving, dontcha think? – Moderator]
The group faxed examples of their legislative successes in getting nude recreation exempted from laws in West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Dawson County, Ga., and Lake County, Fla. The county attorney suspected that the group probably trolls the Internet and reacts to laws and ordinances that might affect them.
The American Association for Nude Recreation was supposed to send a representative to the meeting, but Dalton didn't see anybody in the audience who fit that description.
“We'd know it if they were here,” Supervisor Jody Early joked.
The county attorney thought the supervisors would give the association' s input “due consideration,” but Dalton recommended the county board adopt the proposed ordinance as presented.
He noted that if the supervisors made any substantive changes, the county would have to hold yet another public hearing on the proposal.
As with Roanoke County's ordinance, Carroll's would put reasonable restrictions on adult-oriented business to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents.
Oftentimes, adult-oriented businesses become magnets for illegal activities such as prostitution that tend to cause harm to businesses and residents around them, the ordinance says.
Dalton said that basing Carroll's law on the existing ordinances makes it more likely that it will stand up to constitutional muster.
The 18-page ordinance requires adult businesses to go through a permit process with the county administrator' s office, which includes a criminal background check on the applicant, a photograph and fingerprints of the applicant, description of the business and more.
The permit request would be denied if the applicant falsely answered a question, had been convicted of a felony in the past five years or a crime of moral turpitude or one involving obscenity laws within the past three years, or failed to comply with any county codes or laws.
Carroll could revoke the permit to operate if prostitution takes place on the business premises or if employees commit criminal offenses such as harboring a runaway child, exposing minors to harmful materials, or sexual assault.
The ordinance spells out about 30 regulations that must be followed by places with adult entertainment, including dancing, modeling or live entertainment with an emphasis on sexual activities or certain anatomical areas.
It mentions particular situations such as:
- “The stage shall be at least 18 inches above the level of the floor and separated by a distance of at least three feet from the nearest area occupied by patrons. No patron shall be permitted within three feet of the stage while the stage is occupied by an entertainer.”
- separate dressing rooms for male and female entertainers.
- entertainers have no physical contact with customers.
- “No patron shall directly pay or give any gratuity to any entertainer.”
The provisions are designed to prohibit contact between entertainer and customer.
Citizen Clyde Easter stood up in support of the law during the public hearing.
“It sounds like to me you've been working on this,” he said. “The things you've been doing sound like the right thing for the citizens of Carroll County.”
Easter said he's spoken to many people about the issue and found that they want to keep adult-oriented businesses out of the county.
If anything, Easter wanted the ordinance to have more clout because, in his view, such businesses are bad for the county, state and nation.
“I would encourage you to vote on a very strong ordinance to discourage this kind of business from coming here,” he said.
Supervisor Jeff Evans made a motion to approve the ordinance on adult business and community standards. Supervisor L.J. Jones seconded.
Early took the opportunity to put in a plug for zoning as the best way to accomplish the goal of keeping businesses like these away from churches and schools.
Evans disagreed, but Chairman David Hutchins steered the supervisors back to the motion on the floor.
All six supervisors voted to approve the ordinance.
A section of Carroll County's new ordinance dealing with public indecency would outlaw things like evening gowns and swimsuits for women, argues a representative of the Naturist Action Committee.
Bob Morton, executive director of the group, said he understands that the Carroll supervisors are trying to protect the community's values, but some of the language infringes on peoples' everyday rights, such as how to dress.
Part of the problem comes from county officials having dropped the word “obscene” from the public indecency portion.
“Obscene has a meaning that's understood by the courts,” Morton said.
Without that qualification, the ordinance could apply to far more than was probably intended, Morton said.
He also referred to some definitions in section 111 of the ordinance pertaining to prohibitions against public indecency.
“Having less than the majority of each buttock completely and opaquely covered” qualifies as nudity, the ordinance states.
The style of swimwear today shows some portion of a woman's buttock, Morton objected. “You certainly wouldn't be able to buy most women's swimsuits today off the rack.”
Morton also finds problematic that the law prohibits the “female breast distal” being covered less than completely.
By his interpretation, women would not be able to legally wear evening gowns that show cleavage.
The Naturist Action Committee does not involve itself with every locality's efforts to regulate adult business and community standards, but this is an exception.
“When they paint it so broadly that it catches us, then we care,” Morton said.
Representatives of the group wanted to sit down with Carroll officials and help them craft an ordinance that would suit their purposes, but didn't get a chance. Now, Morton says, they are looking at other options.
The supervisors could amend the ordinance, given the proper motivation, he said. Every option is open, including taking the matter to court.
“We reserve that right; I'll go even further: We've done it before,” Morton told The Gazette. “That's not a threat, but we're not going to say that we won't.”