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Chiefland closer to sex business ordinance

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

It took almost a year of discussion, but Chiefland is one step closer to having an ordinance on the books to strictly control sexually oriented businesses - should any want to move into the city.

Actually three proposed ordinances were presented to the City Commission in its regular meeting Monday night by City Attorney Norm Fugate.

Fugate said the ordinances were based on the Gainesville ordinances regulating sexually oriented businesses.

The first proposed ordinance would regulate adult entertainment businesses and escort services and would require such businesses to be licensed, and for all escorts to be licensed.

The second ordinance would ban nudity in places serving alcoholic beverages and in places where the public is present or likely to be present, or where a person could reasonably expect to be observed by members of the public.

The third ordinance would regulate the location of sexually-oriented businesses - such as adult book and/or film stores, adult cabarets, adult photographic or adult picture, motion-picture or drive-ins, by setting minimum distances from sensitive places, such as schools, places of worship, playgrounds and residential areas.

Fugate told the commission that the Levy County sexually-oriented business ordinance only deals with licensing such businesses. "You are going a little bit farther," Fugate said.

He said while the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such businesses cannot be banned outright, the proposed ordinances would allow location in any commercial district provided it meets minimum distance requirements to be set by the commission. Fugate said he had communicated with City Planning Director Bill Hammond about mapping out minimum distances, such as 1,000 feet from sensitive spaces.

"Gainesville has a 1,000 foot distance, but you can't set such a distance so it prohibits such businesses from locating (in the city)," Fugate said.

Sylvia McCullar, a sometimes lone lobbyist for new ordinances to regulate such activity, told the commission she has her doubts about using the Gainesville ordinances as a basis for Chiefland's effort to strictly regulate such businesses.

"I would like no business," she said. "But I would like wording acceptable to the Supreme Court."

She added, "This is a legal matter that has been taken out of our hands."

McCullar doubted the Gainesville ordinance would be acceptable, "Because my experience with the Gainesville Police Department is that have not had success with it because they are not enforcing it and they are not being challenged.

Gainesville has the University (of Florida) and has made its reputation as a party school."

She asked the commission to reconsider the ordinances because they have not been tested under the Supreme Court's ruling protecting freedom of expression under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

She also noted she had been assured folks would be packing the meeting but only McCullar and another woman attended for the sole purpose of discussing the ordinances.

In the end, the commission delayed taking any action to set minimum distances or discussing the proposals because Commissioner Teresa Barron was absent. Barron was at the Levy County Commission's budget meeting being held at the same time in Bronson.

"I want to wait until Barron's back because I am sure she will have something to say on this," Hudson said, referring to Barron's interest in tightly regulating the businesses.

The proposed ordinances will come up at the commission's next meeting at 6 p.m. October 6 at City Hall.