Council restricts Sexually Oriented Businesses

By Reggie Ellis

The City of Exeter has finally protected itself from being overrun by dirty S.O.B.s.

SOBs, or sexually oriented businesses, include everything from adult bookstores to striptease clubs and pornographic theatres. The recent controversy surrounding Sugar Daddy's Gentlemen's Club is a timely reminder of why the Exeter City Council wanted a city ordinance regulating SOBs before one had already moved into town. Neighboring residents are upset with the parking situation, nose level and immoral implications of the strip club located on Mineral King Avenue east of Visalia and west of Road 158. After heated arguments from neighbors at a July 14 hearing, the Tulare County Planning Commission is expected to deny the club a special use permit on Aug. 11, even though the club has been operating for 18 months.

City Attorney Steve Kabot said the council cannot prohibit an SOB from moving in but can regulate the location, licensing and permitting of the business. Kabot also said the city cannot deny a permit on the grounds of the business being inappropriate. SOB permits, like any other business permit, can only be denied for other problems such as public safety, inadequate parking or noise pollution issues.

City Planner Greg Collins had the unenviable task of reading through volumes of studies and reports on the negative impacts of sexually oriented businesses, writing the resolutions, presenting them to the Exeter Planning Commission and finally to the city council.

"Just reading this report I have read the same words over and over again," Mayor Leon Ooley said. "It's like reading a dirty book. I am thankful for your hard work so the council didn't have to do it."

The city council adopted four ordinances to limit where and how a sexually oriented business may operate within city limits. The first ordinance, 618, had to define public nudity in order to prohibit it. Exceptions to the ordinance were listed as children under 10 years of age, mothers who are breast-feeding or a person posing nude for a modeling class.

"Torrey Pines High School in San Diego has many [Advanced Placement] classes and one of them is a nude modeling class," Kabot said.

Ordinance 619 established possibly "negative secondary impacts" of sexually oriented businesses. Based on 13 studies in cities across the nation spanning 15 years from 1977 to 1992, negative impacts were listed as: the use of SOBs for unlawful sexual activities including prostitution; the spread of sexually transmitted diseases; increased crime; downgrading property values; harmful effects to children walking through or visiting someone in the area. However, the ordinance cannot, by law, prohibit or restrict the content in materials sold inside the establishment.

"We can't regulate the business but we can regulate the secondary problems created by that business," Kabot said.

Ordinance 620 amended the city's zoning laws to include SOBs in the Light Industrial (ML) zone, which also includes manufacturing, public utilities, gas stations and small electrical equipment and appliances. Collins said the most likely area would be west of Highway 65 north of Glaze Avenue.

SOBs may not be located within a straight line of 1,000 feet of any sensitive land use, which includes residences, residential neighborhoods, child day care facilities, cemeteries, churches, schools, youth organizations and clubs, public parks or any public building regularly frequented by children from property line to property line. Also, sexually oriented businesses cannot be located within 600 feet of another SOB.

"We want it to be located in the … 'safest' place in the community based on historical evidence," Kabot said.

Any person who operates an SOB without a permit can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000 and or 180 days in prison.

Ordinance 621 states that the entire interior of the business must be visible from the entrance, except employee only rooms and bathrooms, and that no partially or fully enclosed or concealed booths are permitted. However, the interior must be concealed from those outside the building. Patrons would not be permitted to enter any area not visible from the entrance. The ordinance also goes into rules regarding adequate lighting, cleanliness, clear signage prohibiting anyone under 18 from entering and that no alcohol is allowed on the premises. SOBs can only operate between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 a.m. the following morning.

"I hope, despite our efforts, that none of this will ever have to be used," Kabot said.

In other news:

  • Public Works Director Felix Ortiz reported that the city's auction raised about $12,000. Most of the items were vehicles no longer in use by the city. Ortiz said the funds will be used for equipment replacement.

  • The council authorized the formation of five landscape and lighting districts. The districts are funded through property taxes assessed by the County Recorder's office. The money pays for the maintenance of street lighting, turf areas, shrubs, trees, irrigation systems and walls of city owned property in new subdivisions. The assessment automatically increases annually in an amount equal to or the lesser of 3 percent or the actual increased cost of maintenance.

    Glenn View Estates No. 6, located on Dana Court and Richmond Court off of Meadow Avenue, has 32 units and will be assessed $93 per unit per year. Orchard Estates No.1, located on Old Line Court and Atwood Avenue off of Cambridge Street, has 29 units and will be assessed $79.34 per unit per year. Maple Place, located at the corner of Maple Street and Filbert Road, has 19 units and will be assessed at $108 per unit per year. The Park Place subdivision at the corner of Glaze Avenue and Belmont Road is divided into to assessment districts. The first -- along Sherwood Street, Park Place Drive and Sheffield Avenue -- has 39 units and will be assessed at $63.18 per unit per year. The second -- along St. Thomas Court, Davis Avenue, Park Place Court, Oxford Street and St. James Court -- has 66 units and will be assessed $49.68 per unit per year.

  • City Planner Greg Collins said there has been a lot of interest in the committee being formed to discuss planning and design for the southwest portion of the City of Exeter. Collins said the committee could hold its first meeting in about three weeks.

  • The Exeter Police Department has applied for a $20,000 grant from ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control). The grant will be used to crackdown on businesses selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.

  • Director Felix Ortiz said Public Works Department will begin slurry seals of city owned parking lots this week.

  • During the public comment period, Bill Davis, on behalf of the Exeter Cultural Arts Council, requested that the city allow the organization to use City Park past the 10 a.m. curfew. The ECAC used the park on July 19 to host its first Classics in the Park movie night. The movies cannot be seen on the projection until after dark, around 9 p.m., but the city requires events at the park end by 10 p.m. Lt. Cliff Bush said they would allow events to go until 10:15-10:30 p.m. Bush said neighborhood residents may complain if events go much later into the night. Davis said the first movie night helped the ECAC raise more than $200. The next movie night will be tomorrow, Aug. 5.

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