Sex Shops Protest Zoning Changes

Hundreds of city residents have signed a petition protesting the planned zoning changes that would restrict adult businesses The city’s draft zoning ordinance would put restrictions on adult businesses to prevent the creation of a red light district, which is a problem that does not exist, nor has it ever. A notable restriction is that such businesses could not be located within 1,000 feet of a home, school, or another adult business. Due to the mixed-use nature of the city’s development, this would provide very few places in the city where such businesses could be located. The city wants to make it clear that they do not seek to ban adult businesses, just limit them. Elizabeth Nelson has the story in today’s Progress.

15 Responses to “Sex Shops Protest Zoning Changes”

  • ďWeíre not trying to ban them outright,Ē deputy city attorney Lisa Kelley said, “It would just be an unfortunate side effect that you couldn’t start a new adult business.”

    Disclaimer: The above quote has been edited from its original version, to say what she really wanted to say.

  • This is ludicrous. Does anyone actually think Charlottesville even has the potential to support a red light district? I certainly don’t. There’s a reason that there’s never been a single sex shop here until recently.

  • Wasn’t there a crackdown a couple of years back on a "red light district" or at least, a place where prostitutes where known to hang out? It was in the ’98-’99 timeframe that I remember this…. that the city police were specifically targeting.

  • this is ricockulous. just another way for city council to waste time and money.

  • I think you’re right, though the said legislation would do little (if anything) to address such an issue.


    Nelson had already asked me a question or 2 before I started the tape. The tape begins with me telling her the most recent developments.

    R: So, uh, like I said, I got an email from [Deputy City Attorney] Lisa Kelley, and I got one from Neighborhood Development Services, telling me that the people on–that there wasnít really an Adult Use Subcommittee. That the members on the Zoning Committee itself were the ones who drafted it. Which is kind of in contradiction to the stated policy that they wanted as many people involved in the ordinance as possible. For other committees, they contacted–there were landscapers involved in making the sections about landscaping and developers were involved. Other citizens, regular citizens not attached to the City, were involved in other ways, except for this. I think it would be great if they took some citizen input–not just citizen input but input especially from people who would be affected by the Ordinance. In fact, I just wrote down some contacts here for you. Other people you might want to talk to.

    L: Oh wonderful! Great. Your competition.

    R: Well, in this weíre not really competition. Weíre really altogether.

    L: Ok. Thatís great. Cause I wouldnít even know which doors to knock on.

    R: Right here is just some information squares weíve been passing out to people in our stores.

    L: Have you had any customers complaining to you about the new Ordinance?

    R: Yes. We have a petition in the store.

    L: Oh really?

    R: Yeah, and I can give you that too.

    L: Have you presented that, yet, to the City?

    R: No, not yet. They were going to have a public hearing on March 26, but at this last Planning Commission meeting they pushed it back because there was still a lot of work to be done on it. In our store, and in these other stores that are listed here, some of them., we have a little area with this information up. Hereís the Ordinance itself that people can read. Yeah, a lot of people who have been signing the petition have complained and shook their heads, mostly surprised that, in a time where people like Oprah Winfrey and Dr Ruth are promoting the use of sexual accoutrements and erotic videos, to try to restrict those doesnít make much sense. Especially since, up til this point, we havenít had any kind of regulation about any kind of sexually-oriented material or any kind of live nude entertainment. And someone in the City thinks weíre ďvulnerableĒ to a red-light district. But we havenít had one for the 2 centuries that weíve been in existence. And yet we havenít had any of these regulations. So, itís kind of unnecessary.

    L: So there are a lot of these businesses around town; people just donít know about them?

    R: Iím guessing–yeah. Yeah.

    L: I really gotta learn shorthand.

    R: What I really wished, or hoped was that the Zoning Cmte had gotten in contact with businesses like these. And instead of just cutting and pasting something from another city; that they wouldíve used our businesses as a model for how any legislation–or even if any legislation was necessary–should be. Because weíve all existed in our communities without bothering anybody, without a single protestor, without anyone complaining to the City or anything like that.

    L: And youíre already within 1000 feet of neighborhoods?

    R: Oh, of course!

    L: And the neighborhoods havenít complained?

    R: The Adult Use Ordinance is stronger, in some ways, than the Los Angeles City ordinance. For example, in Los Angeles their restriction is 500 feet, and theyíre 468 square miles. Ours is 1000 feet, and weíre 10 square miles. Itís just much too strict.

    L: So, does this have a chilling effect on your business? Would it affect you, since youíre already there, or would it just affect businesses that are coming in?

    R: It would affect us in that we would be considered a nonconforming use, according to the City. But we couldnít move or expand without having to fall under the jurisdiction of the Adult Use ordinance. And it says in there thatís itís only 15%. Thatís kind of a small amount if you consider that most independent video stores, for example, have a whole back room, separate from the rest of the store. thatís pretty small. A lot of people come into our store, and they donít even realize that we have an adult section if theyíre not interested in that. People who have come in for years, and then theyíve seen our petition and theyíre like ďYou guys carry this stuff?Ē and then I show them, like, ďYeah, itís right over here.Ē and theyíre like, ďOh!Ē [laughs].

    L: And they donít go any further.

    R: Actually, the last guy was like ďOh! Well let me check it out!Ē

    L: Awesome!

    R. And so, a chilling effect–good that you had used that phrase–because a customer came into the store–and he is from Waynesboro. He came to our store to get some stuff, and we were talking about this issue. And he was actually afraid to sign the petition because in Waynesboro, the city has made an ordinance that you canít sell any kind of adult material.

    L: So thatís why he was in Charlottesville?

    R: Yes, exactly. He was so scared of someone in Waynesboro finding out that–as much as this guy supported it–he didnít want to sign. I think thatís a good example of the chilling effect that Waynesboroís ordinance has had on its citizens. He went into detail. Even though a petition doesnít get published anywhere, itís taken by City officials and they count Charlottesville addresses. He was afraid that someone was going to go into his garage and see his little collection and then he would get in trouble from the city. Itís funny that he was afraid of that, but not afraid that someone would walk into his house and find his alcohol collection and get him in trouble. Thatís another main point that you probably read in some of the stuff I sent you. The Adult Use section puts stricter limits on these kinds of businesses than it does on alcohol-serving businesses like bars and restaurants. That doesnít seem to make sense to me considering the harm to Charlottesville that alcohol does, as opposed to any kind of sexually-oriented items or videos or literature.

    L: So how long have you guys had the petition out?

    R: Between 1 and 2 months, Iíd say.

    L: Thatís all? Do you guys have a lot of signatures yet? Actually–are you meeting with the other owners of the businesses regularly?

    R: Iím in contact with them. Yes, definitely. In fact, not on that list is also Club 216. They also had a petition going. Thereís probably some other that I donít remember. But the ones I listed here are the ones who are more directly affected than a Club 216 would be.

    L: Would Spencerís Gift be affected? They definitely sell adult novelties.

    R: Definitely. I was surprised.

    L: And thereís definitely more than 15% in their store.

    R: Yeah, I went in there just the other day and I was like, ďWow! They have the exact same stuff…

    L: Right out in the open in the middle of the mall.

    R: …that we have in the back room, they have right there in the middle. Next to Bart Simpson toys.

    L: And the teenagers are coming in and playing with it and tittering.

    R: Right. Thatís the problem with ordinances like these. Especially this one. Theyíre very vague. Even though the Zoning Cmte and the Planning Cmsn may have absolutely no intent to use it on a Spencerís or a Victoriaís Secret, because supposedly thatís higher class, this is law. So whoís to say that in 25 years when everyoneís whoís working for the City now is no longer there, that someone in another administration might not decide to use this against such businesses. Or even against any kind of business that falls out of political favor.

    L: Do you guys have any intention of going to court about the zoning ordinance?

    R: Iím not allowed to discuss that. The phase that weíre in now is gathering political and citizen support. And, hopefully, letting the Planning Cmsn and eventually the City Council see reason on this and show them logically that itís not really necessary.

    L: Do you have political support as of yet? I mean, youíve got the citizens coming and signing the petition. Have you gone outside the business to try and gather support from other people who may not patronize but may support you?

    R: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I went to a Q and A session for the zoning ordinance that the City did in February. I passed out some of the information squares there and, surprisingly the–oh, did I tell you that I work at Videos, Etc?

    L: I think you did. Where is that located?

    R: Thatís on Fontaine Avenue. Weíre in the Jefferson Park Avenue area. So I passed some of the information out the and the President of the JPA Neighborhood Assn. [Liz Kutchai]–she said sheíd never been in the video store before–just not an avid movie watcher–and she came into the store and checked it out after reading over my literature and she decided that I was right. That it doesnít make sense to restrict something like that. Because our store in particular has been in that neighborhood for 20 years.

    L: Has it really? Selling these types of products?

    R: We just started selling the novelties, but weíve been selling adult videos since we opened back in the 80ís. And Beyond Video has been there, not as long, but over a decade as well, selling adult videos. Throughout the City, since the Video Revolution, there have been many stores that have come and gone that have sold and rented adult videos. A lot of people bring up the Pleasure Chest. I donít know what that was. I was a kid when that store was around. I wasnít even living in Virginia when it was around. I donít know if you know about that.

    L: I heard about it when somebody wrote about Ultimate Bliss. Said it was there and it left and somebody–

    R: Yeah, they had other problems besides their material. Thereíve been mainstream video stores thatíve sold this kind of material since the Video Revolution, right here in Charlottesville. And we havenít gone to he–to, uh, Hades in a handbasket. I donít want you quoting me saying a bad word. [laughs]

    L: So, you said you wanted the City to use these stores as an example? To look at you guys as a successful way of doing an adult business?

    R: Exactly! That hasnít harmed our community in any ways. In talking to people–our little video store just attracts people from the neighborhood, mostly, because weíre small. Weíre not a Blockbuster. We serve our little neighborhood. So everybody that comes in there lives near the video store. And theyíve been all surprised at this because weíre a good model. What citizens really worry about are garish signage and noise, basically. But thatís a concern they would have with any kind of bar or restaurant. Weíre right across the street from Durty Nellyís. When they start their music up at night I can hear it all the way inside the video store. So thatís what people are concerned about. They donít really–from talking to me, they donít really care what people do in the privacy of their homes, what they buy. Thatís the only thing theyíre worried about.


    You know, that kind of stereotype of retailers of sexually-oriented items–itís just that–a stereotype. You know, itís something from the movies, really. In actuality, most places that sell adult material are like ours, like Beyond Video, like Videos, Etc. They have back rooms that are discreet that adults can go into. And theyíre also like Ultimate Bliss. Itís very gently marketed with no garish signs or garish wording. Itís designed to make women customers comfortable.

    L: The pink and the purple…

    R: Yeah, thatís the bulk of the bricks and mortar of the adult entertainment business now. Of course a lot of it is internet as well. But as far as something thatís inside a neighborhood, thatís really what itís like. And I really just wished that City officials had pictured those kind of businesses. The ones that really exist right now and have existed for a decade or two here in Charlottesville. And thought of the reality of that instead of some stereotype of something far away that they can fear that weíre ďvulnerableĒ to, was the quote from either Jim Kelly or–Jim Kelly–Jim Tolbert! [director of Charlottesvilleís Neighborhood Develoopment Services] or Lisa Kelley. Have you seen Bowling for Columbine yet?

    L: No, I havenít.

    R: Yeah. Thatís what that movieís really about. Itís about Americanís fear of a lot of things, and how we live in a culture of fear moreso than other countries.

    L: Do you think the City officials and the people who came up with the zoning ordinance are aware of how successful this business is? This niche? Do you think they realize itís booming in Charlottesville already? Or do they think, ďOh, itís not really there?Ē

    R: Well, that is one of the questions that I asked. And, well, hm. Iím not gonna name any names, but to tell the truth, more than one of the people involved has been inside our store. Not necessarily for the adult product, but they know we exist. Itís almost like they thought that that kind of thing didnít count, maybe. That they were trying to protect themselves from something ďout thereĒ threatening to come in. To think that any City official would think that itís easy to open any kind of business in Charlottesville is kind of weird.

    L: Yeah.

    R: Itís not easy. I mean, there are 20 pages alone on signage restrictions for all businesses.

    L: The whole concept of a red-light district is something people are afraid of. Would you, as a business owner, even want to move into a red-light district? Would you want to be located with other businesses like that or would you try and avoid that and just stay in the neighborhood thatís comfortable with you?

    R: The problem with the concept itself of a red-light district is that the things that go on there that people are afraid of are already against the law. Which are prostitution and indecent exposure. And red-light districts in other cities are created by this kind of zoning. Because when you have all these restrictions on where youíre located, and youíre only allowed to be in isolated or poorer areas, then–those areas already have a higher rate of crime because theyíre isolated and poorer.

    L: Thatís so smart. I have to admit that the adult business is never something I actually thought of as somebody–consciously going into an adult business to cater to a certain market. This is a new concept for me. Itís really interesting.

    R: Iím not sure what you mean?

    L: I grew up in a city that had a red-light district. You didnít go–

    R: Aha. Was that Syracuse, you said?

    L: Yes. You drove down the street and there was a GIGANTIC sign that said ďADULT VIDEOSĒ right next to a sign that said ďDiscount LiquorĒ. You didnít go there. And thatís what I grew up with. So this whole concept of having your little neighborhood shop where you can get your toys for the night–itís new, itís different. Itís more open-minded, actually.

    R: Yeah. In cities like ours, smaller cities, this the reality of retailing sexually-oriented items. In the back rooms of video stores.

    L: How often have you been meeting and been in contact with these folks? Have you guys been meeting together at all?

    R: We have not met all together, but Iíve been keeping in contact with everyone.

    L: Do you have any plans to meet altogether? And come before Council together?

    R: We will probably just do that during the public hearing. Either the public hearing before the Planning Cmsn or, uh, you know what, I wrote down the date. Do you want that?

    L: Love it.

    R: You might want to confirm it Ďcause–

    L: Theyíve changed it 3 times.

    R: –they set it but they might change it.


    And I donít know much about this because I work in a video store, and Iíve never even been in a strip club, but Iíve been told by other people whoíve tried to open strip clubs–or even, like, articles Iíve read in the paper–that the way to control strip clubs is by controlling the alcohol. Because most strip clubs, apparently, make most of their money from alcohol and thatís how cities and states control them, really. By controlling their alcohol usage.

    L: Are there strip clubs in Charlottesville?

    R: No.

    L: Do you know of anybody whoís tried to start one?

    R: Ha! Iím not sure if I can give you his name. Wait, wait. Actually, thereís this one guy Iím thinking of but thereís another guy who talked about opening one in one of those articles I sent you.

    L: ĎCause I heard a rumor a couple of months ago that the sound guy at [bar name withheld] was trying to open one. I never found out what his name was or whether that was true or not. You think that was one of the guys?

    R: You mean like the owner of [bar name]?

    L: Iím not sure. They said the sound guy. But, could be the owner. It could be him.

    R: I donít know. Youíd better ask them.

    L: Alright. Are you looking up those names?

    R: Iím looking up the date of the–I thought for sure I had it here. Oh gosh.

    L: I can get back with Jim Tolbert. Heíll know it.

    R: Yeah. I mustíve left it on my desk.

    L: So do you have the names of the gentleman whoís trying to start this club?

    R: Whoís trying to–?

    L: Start a strip club in Charlottesville?

    R: No.

    L: Alright. You said he was in the article. I just thought that–

    [Random woman starts singing ďThe Lion Sleeps TonightĒ at the top of her lungs in front of Casellaís and we laugh.]

    R: I canít remember.

    L: Do you remember where he worked?

    R: I think he was a developer.

    L: Oh, okay.

    R: Yeah. ĎCause to do something like that youíd have to be a developer, a rich guy.

    L: It wasnít Coran Capshaw, was it?

    R: I canít-you know, I donít know. I canít remember. But itís in the article. Iím sure I remember reading it.

    L: So whatís you guysí next step as a group of business owners trying to do this?

    R: To continue what weíre doing now, which is to educate the public and to encourage them to contact City leaders. Like Kevin OíHalloran, Chair of the Planning Cmsn, and the City Councillors and also Jim Tolbert. Jim Tolbertís the real working guy behind all of this, doing a lot of the legwork. And heís been the most helpful to me. Heís answered most of my questions. Although he does answer them briefly, he does, at least, acknowledge my existence.

    L: Have you had any problems with that? Trying to get people to acknowledge you in City Hall?

    R: Yeah.

    L: Or do they just brush you off and say ďyouíre a porn store.Ē

    R: No, nothing like the latter. Itís more like, ďWe donít want to talk about this issue.Ē So they donít return phone calls or emails.

    L: Whoíve you tried to contact that hasnít returned your emails?

    R: Just various members. And, at this point, Jim Tolbertís the one whoís responded to me the most.

    L: But have you tried to contact Planning Cmsn members or City Councillors?

    R: Well, I got to speak before the whole Planning Cmsn on Tuesday. So I know they got to hear what I had to say. Plus, after speaking with them, I got a note from Ms. Kelley, Lisa Kelley of the City Attorneyís office, saying that they would answer my questions. So itís kind of in hold right now. If I really get a response, right now, after Iíve spoken before them, and emailed all of them, then I wonít think that theyíre trying to not communicate.

    L: Are you part owner of Videos, Etc–

    R: No. Nope, Iím not even the official spokesperson. That would be Ken [Meyri], youíd want to talk to him about any–

    L: So are you an employee of Videos, Etc?

    R: Yes.

    L: Employee–I didnít want to put you down as the manager or the owner and have somebody call me and go, ďHe is not!Ē

    R: You can put me down as the manager. I mean, I am.

    L: Terrific. Great. So this is really gonna get the ball rolling on this stuff.

    R: Let me think if thereís anything else I want to say.

    L: Yeah, definitely. If there is, youíve got my email, right? If you do think of anything else?

    R: Oh! Iíve got something written down and Iím not sure if I got all that in. Oh yeah, 2 more things. One is the Cityís website has a message board forum for the City budget, and I asked Jim Tolbert, initially, at one of the Q and A sessions if we could have something like that for the zoning ordinance. Because itís such a big document, like the City budget. There are a whole lot of issues that people would want to talk about and be in contact with the City about. He thought that was a good idea. They backed off on it. Iím not sure for what reason. I think, maybe, for budgetary reasons. Iím not sure. But I asked them about that at the Planning Cmsn meeting on Tuesday, and they demurred again. They said it was really more something I would have to talk to a City Councillor about. In fact, Kevin Lynch was there, and he said that he would look into that for me. So we might be getting, on the Cityís website, a citizen to City Hall conversation about the zoning ordinance, which I think would be a good way for them to collect community input.


    Yeah, just a little bit more about the reluctance to talk about this. In the public presentations–I think I mentioned this to you in an email–that they went through all the new parts of the zoning ordinance major changes except this.

    L: I think I remember Jim saying, ďWeíre talking about this because it affects the neighborhoods. Weíre not talking about that because it doesnít.Ē

    R: Is that what he said?

    L: At one of the meetings, somebody mentioned something that wasnít to do exactly with what they were talking about, and Jimís answer was, ďWeíre gonna focus on these zoning changes. On these rental changes, because it affects the neighborhood. It affects the people here.Ē And I think he tried to put off anything that he didnít think would affect the new–

    R: Wow, thatís funny. Jim Tolbert is a very thorough guy, and he gave a pretty long presentation. For him to not include the biggest change to the zoning ordinance, and possibly the most contentious one, in terms of legal things–a decision was made to not include it. That really surprised me and made me think–

    L: To qualify that, though, it was 2 months ago and it very well may have been a different issue that didnít have to relate to something else–

    R: I myself got to ask him about it at a Q and A session, and it was kind of–

    L: Did he respond at the Q and A session?

    R: Yeah, but it was kind of political speak. I donít even understand what he said today, but basically it sounded like he said he didnít include because he didnít include it. Even right after he said it, I was like, ďDid he just say what I think he said?Ē And then he was on to another question. Here he is presenting it to the public, and itís a big change, from no legislation to all this legislation. So thatís what made me start thinking that they donít want to talk about this, so we have to talk about it as much as possible.


    There is one other issue. With ordinances like this, other cities have wasted a lot of money fighting them in court. In fact, this zoning-ordinance-of-adult-entertainment issue was seen before the Supreme Court in May [City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books]. I donít think that Charlottesvillians want to waste our taxpayer dollars having to deal with something like that. Because an ordinance like this passes, then some free speech group comes in and challenges it. Like the guy over at the Arbyís right over here. The whole County issue with his flags, and he thought that was a free speech issue and they took the [County] to court over that. I think with something like this, thatís been in the community all these years and hasnít harmed anyone, itís a waste of taxpayer dollars to have to fight it. Itís not like it was a citizen-based complaint that started the inclusion of this in the ordinance. It was kind of ďWe donít have one and weíre redoing the ordinance, so letís put one in.Ē

    L: Was it Ultimate Bliss? Was it the obvious store?

    R: I donít know why, but Lisa Kelley and Jim Tolbert keep saying it had nothing to do with that. But it did. It so did. They didnít start putting it in until after Ultimate Bliss appeared. What can I say? If you talk to the owner of Ultimate Bliss, Greg [Sakaf], and heís going to tell you the same thing. Except heís not going to be as polite as I am. Heís gonna use cursewords. [laughs] But yeah. Ultimate Bliss definitely brought this issue to their attention.

    L: Thank you, Ray. I appreciate all your time.

    R: Thanks. I hope I havenít talked too much.

    L: No, this is great. No. I love first interviews with lots of background stuff. This is great. Are you using this in court? [referring to tape recorder]

    R: In court? Oh, no.

    L: Itís just for your own personal–

    R: Yeah. No.

    L: Itís just a thought that occured to me. You mentioned you didnít want to talk about any litigation action. But youíre very well documenting everything youíre doing along the way?

    R: Yeah.

    At this point I turned the recorder off. Liz asked, ďAre you going back to the C-ville or the Hook with this story?Ē I said, ďNo.Ē She said, ďDonít!Ē and laughed. It took me a couple of seconds to get that she meant that I should honor the first reporter to work on a story. Which was easy to do. It wasnít like the Enquirer was offering me $25,000 to tell all. Besides, Liz had paid for my hot cocoa!

  • What seems unclear to me, is why this legislation is being drafted. To me, Ms. Nelson has done just enough interviewing to get a story in the local rag: she talked to people in the business and also some city officials. How about people *not* in the business that are the object of the ordinance spat? Ray Smith says they’ve been around for 2 decades and there’s been no impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. That may be true. But where’s the knocking on 100 doors and asking people living there what they think? You know, real journalism.

  • What concerns me more than the fact that it’s unnecessary legislation (because the good lord knows every place has that) is that a moral judgement is implied. We’ve seen time and again that whether liberal or conservative, the people around Charlottesville really don’t give a hoot. It doesn’t bother people around these parts that sex toys exist and are sold here. Trust us, we’re not bothered. The City administration really doesn’t want to open this can of worms because a hell of a lot more people *do* care and are bothered by the idea that our sweet little town has nothing better to do than control the sale of bits of plastic and leather. Oh, but wait. We’ll have to restrict grocery stores and bath stores too because they sell chocolate syrup and massage oil. And lets not forget the poor shoe shops.

    Now can we do something about the stupid hours of the recycling center and leaf drop-off?

  • Okay, I think I’m done now.

  • Man, no offense, but you seem like you might be kind of a lunatic. And I say that as someone who has transcribed many, many tapes and who would never, ever do it voluntarily.

    I have to be honest: I didn’t even read part of that. Well, not past the first couple of sentences, anyway. Did anyone? Show of hands?

    Can you just help a tired grad student out and boil your point down to a couple of paragraphs? You know, like they do in the newspapers?

  • Here’s a hand. Of course, I was at my desk on lunch break. I don’t read the regress, so I’m interested to know if her enthusiasm for Ray’s point of view actually translated to the article.

  • That’s Lu-NAH-tic!

  • Don’t forget about the frat houses. They sell roofies.

  • Without the Adult Use restrictions, we have existed for 2 centuries without a red-light district. I don’t necessarily believe that anything that has never happened in Cville couldn’t happen in the future. But I take issue with this particular fear.

    For one, restrictions like these *create* high densities of sex-oriented businesses. What they do is zone them out of the areas of the politically powerful and the politically loud and into the areas of the politically disenfranchised. Just picture a map of C-ville. Now picture a 300 foot black circle (representing the location restriction) around every residential zone, educational institution, church and temple in town. That might leave you some woods, but guess what! You can’t locate in parkland either. Think about that next time you’re walking or driving around town. What does it leave you? The median at Hydraulic and 29, maybe? A statute doesn’t have to have the word "ban" in it in order to be a ban.

    The things that people fear from a red-light district (eg, prostitution, indecent exposure) are already against the law, so we must question the effectiveness of using preventative measures against legal businesses. Convenienence stores attract a lot of crime. Should we restrict the locations of 7-11’s? Red-light districts flourish only in places where prostitution is legal, or where the problem of street prostitution is so big that enforcing the law is bigger than the police force can handle. These don’t apply to our town. In addition, any of the feared crimes are more apt to happen when alcohol is part of the district. In some localities, sexual zoning restrictions don’t apply to a strip club unless it serves alcohol.

    Besides, the Planning Commission would never attempt to restrict the locations of restaurants that serve alcohol because of the negative effects drunken bar patrons and loud bands have on neighborhoods. These regultions are a thinly veiled attempt to restrict sex-positive speech. Some city officials may tell you that it’s not. And I believe Jim Tolbert, Lisa Kelley and Kevin O’Halloran when they say that’s not their intent. Doesn’t matter. It’s still the result. Not only that, it’s the intent of the laws they Xeroxed from other cities. The problem is that they cut and pasted adult zoning regs from other places, without consulting non-governmental members of the community. This is the opposite of what they did for the rest of the Zoning Ordinance. The input of people affected by other changes to the Z.O. was solicited, and community members were involved in the drafting of other sections. The Adult Use section was the biggest change in the ordinance, and they didn’t even have a subcommittee for it. One option they still have (besides putting the whole Adult Use section in the circular file) is to scrap the current ill-fitting ordinance and tailor-make a new one for Charlottesville, using the strictest scrutiny to ensure that any regulation has zero reference to the content of any form of literature or media. This is the home of Thomas Jefferson, after all. We should be a haven for free expression.

    "Adult speech refers not merely to sexually explicit content, but to speech reflecting a favorable view of being explicit about sex and a favorable view of the practices it depicts; a restriction on adult content is thus also a restriction turning on a particular viewpoint, of which the government may disapprove." –Supreme Court Justice Souter

Comments are currently closed.