Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

TOP STORY > >Stores that offer adult themes get restricted

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Because the only way to discourage sexually oriented businesses from opening inside city limits was to establish the guidelines that would allow them there, the Cabot City Council passed an ordinance Monday night setting licensing requirements and regulations for such establishments as adult bookstores, movie theaters and hotels that rent rooms by the hour and make available pornographic movies.

The ordinance, which passed the council unanimously among the seven members present, requires licensing of the businesses as well as the employees of the businesses and routine police inspections. The businesses must close between midnight and 6 a.m.

Loitering at such establishments is prohibited and employees must enforce the prohibition. Employees charged with enforcing the prohibition against loitering who fail to carry out their duties may be charged with a misdemeanor, fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to one year.

Sexually oriented businesses will not be allowed to erect fences that obstruct the visibility of their parking lots.

The 19-page document, sponsored by the fire and police committee and the public works committee, has been reviewed for almost a year. When discussion about the ordinance started last year, council members did not hesitate to say that the intent of the ordinance setting parameters for the businesses was to keep them out.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams thanked council members for their work on the ordinance Monday night.

“I think it preserves our quality of life in Cabot,” he said.

In other business, the council passed an ordinance that allows property owners with five acres or more to build larger accessory buildings than have been allowed in the past, providing plans for such buildings are first approved by the planning commission.

The council also approved a special-use permit that will allow a 120-foot cellular phone tower to be erected in a mini-storage business on the corner of Hwy. 89 South and Countrywood, a residential neighborhood. Residents objected to the tower when it first went before the planning commission three months ago, but not when it was approved recently. And none attended the Monday night council meeting.

However, the council chamber was filled with residents of Southern Comfort subdivision near Cabot Middle School South. The residents were concerned that houses with heated and cooled spaces of less than 1,700 square feet would be built there and devalue their homes that were 1,900 to 2,500 square feet not counting garages.

Many of the residents were in the military and would need to sell their homes. Since the market is already in a decline, their property values would crash if smaller homes were built in their neighborhoods, they said.

The mayor and council were sympathetic but couldn’t give the residents what they wanted, a moratorium on the issuance of building permits for small homes.

They told the residents to get a good lawyer and ask the court for a temporary injunction until the matter is sorted out. The size of houses is part of the bill of assurance for subdivisions and the court, not the council, is the enforcer.