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Salisbury mayor looks to restrict adult entertainment businesses

A tightened city ordinance would make it easier for Salisbury’s adult entertainment stores to be labeled as such – and therefore harder to set up shop near homes and churches.

Under Salisbury’s current provisions, a store is categorized as an adult entertainment business if at least 20 percent of its square footage is devoted to adult entertainment-type merchandise or if 20 percent of its revenues come from such wares.

The new language would lower both thresholds to 15 percent and extend such stores’ “usable floor area” to the floor, walls and vertical displays – cabinets, shelves and racks.

The legislation, proposed by Mayor James Ireton Jr., would give existing businesses two years to come into compliance with the new language. A city council work session scheduled for Tuesday afternoon with this legislation on the agenda was postponed, to be rescheduled at a later date.

In a letter this month to Ireton and the council, city Planning Director John F. Lenox wrote that businesses could previously circumvent city ordinance by keeping merchandise off the floor and instead hanging it on the walls.

“These changes would permit the City to regulate the existence and location of Adult Entertainment businesses for the benefit of its citizens,” he wrote.

DelmarvaNow reported Monday that the new language specifically targets the Red Light District business located on Route 13, or North Salisbury Boulevard. The shop calls itself “Maryland’s largest romantic superstore,” with lingerie, adult DVDs, toys, lotions, lubricants, massage oils, magazines, tobacco accessories and body jewelry among its offerings.

That report said after opening in August 2013, Red Light District simply moved offending merchandise from the floor to the wall to avoid violating city codes and continue operating within 1,000 feet of homes and a place of religious assembly.

Attorney Cynthia MacDonald, who represents Red Light District’s owner, B&Z Investments, said Tuesday she had not yet seen the proposed legislation and declined to comment before doing so.

In Salisbury, adult entertainment businesses can’t operate within 1,000 feet of public parks, public and private schools and colleges, day care centers, hospitals, residences, places of religious assembly and fellow adult entertainment businesses. The city’s planning and zoning staff say that leaves 6.2 percent of city land eligible.

“We know what these establishments have done, up and down the Eastern seaboard, to circumvent local law and have these stores open in inappropriate places. This legislation will amortize these establishments within 2 years and place them in the appropriate parts of the city – away from churches and residences,” Ireton said in a statement issued Monday.

“The industrial parks will become the appropriate place for these businesses. I encourage the City Council to pass this update to Chapter 5 of the City Code and start the clock on the moment these businesses are required to relocate to the appropriate place.”