Friday, September 06, 2002

Kenton panel rejects zone for sexually oriented businesses

By Cindy Schroeder,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — Five years after the city of Covington began wrestling with the difficult issue of where to locate sexually oriented businesses, officials are no closer to finding a solution.

        A three-hour public hearing Thursday night ended with county planners voting against a recommended zone change that would have permitted strip clubs and adult bookstores on a 30-acre site at the northeast end of Mary Laidley Road in south Covington.

        In voting 9-7 against rezoning that area to urban industrial/technology — a newly created Covington zone that allows adult businesses among its permitted uses — the majority of the Kenton County & Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission said that it would be next to a residential zone, which they said is not permitted.

        Covington City Commission has 90 days to accept the county planning body's recommendation or reject it. Although the next City Commission meeting is Sept. 17, City Solicitor Jay Fossett could not say how soon it would go before Covington officials, as the city still must receive a formal recommendation from the county planning body.

        County planners said interested parties should contact Covington city officials for the date of the vote or watch for an announcement on cable television.

        “The city's got a problem,” Mr. Fossett told county planners in his presentation. “It's got to find a place for these businesses. We prefer that they not be here, but we don't have a choice.”

        Covington's city solicitor said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that cities must provide zones for sexually oriented businesses, no matter how undesirable nearby residents, business owners and Covington's elected officials may find them. Otherwise, he said, taxpayers could face costly legal battles from owners of adult businesses.

        Mr. Fossett cited the recent example of the Playpen club, which opened last month on a main thoroughfare in Wilder, against city officials' wishes.

        Because the fast-growing Campbell County city did not address sexually oriented businesses in its zoning code, it had no legal standing to determine where such businesses could operate, he said.

        But speakers such as Wayne Dornacher of Independence dis- agreed. He suggested that Covington officials wait until a proposed study on where to locate sexually oriented businesses in Campbell and Kenton counties is completed.

        This week, Covington City Commission agreed to contribute up to $7,000 toward the $42,000 study by a national zoning expert. Representatives of many Campbell and Kenton County governments say they expect to approve the study by the end of the month.

        Many of the 32 opponents who spoke at Thursday's hearing said they feared the zone change would decrease their property values, increase alcohol- and other drug-related crimes, slow nearby residential development and jeopardize nearby residents' safety, largely through increased traffic on Ky. 17, which is the only access to Mary Laidley Road.


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