- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

ROANOKE (AP) — From Abingdon to Harrisonburg and most everywhere in between, local governments in western Virginia are trying to restrict porn shops, strip clubs and other “blue” venues because, they say, nearby areas suffer from such “secondary effects” as increased crime and lower property values.

The governments are trying to regulate the businesses by limiting how close they can be to such community institutions as churches, libraries, residential neighborhoods and playgrounds.

Some governments also are requiring the business owner to obtain permission from the police chief before setting up shop.

“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.”

Similar restrictions have been instituted in Harrisonburg, Washington County and the city of Marion.

Roanoke County adopted its adult business ordinance in October. So did the city of Radford and Smyth County. Wytheville and Pulaski have enacted similar legislation since December.

Dublin and Damascus are next. They 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.

However, a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the secondary effects cities had long blamed on 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 four-month-old ordinance. “We said, ‘We’ll allow these in commercial zones, with special-use permits.’”

Dan Bickley, whose shop in Bristol sells such items as pornographic videos and sex toys, says he is taking the new regulations in stride.

“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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