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Date of Issue: October 18, 2007

Commissioners back prohibition on adult business

Holmes Beach city commissioners decided last week to continue their pursuit to prohibit sexually oriented businesses in the city.

The commission considered two options during an Oct. 9 work session at city hall— an ordinance providing no location for a sexually oriented business and an ordinance limiting the zoning areas for such businesses to two locations.

Commissioners unanimously endorsed the measure that would provide no location following some cautionary words from city attorney Patricia Petruff.

Petruff explained that the ordinance drafted to allow a sexually oriented business in limited confines, basically two storefronts in the shopping center on East Bay Drive, would withstand any legal challenge on First Amendment grounds.

The other ordinance states that the commissionrecognizes the “need to afford individuals and businesses the right to operate a sexually oriented adult-use establishment as guaranteed by the First Amendment,” but “finds that the geography of the city, namely its small size, prevents a sexually oriented adult-use (business) within the city.”

Additionally, the proposed ordinance also states that “there are reasonable alternative venues for sexually oriented” businesses in Manatee County.”

The draft measure concludes, “The city commission determines that prohibiting sexually oriented adult uses within the city is in the best interest of the public health, safety and welfare.”

A sexually oriented business would be defined as one that “restricts admission to adults, which presents films, displays, depicts, describes or otherwise provides for the observation of sexually oriented material, or which sells, distributes or transmits, whether physically or electronically, images of persons who engage in sexual activities, including poses for photography or an action for film, regardless of the number of individuals participating in such activity. This definition shall include the definition of adult entertainment establishment provided for by Florida statutes.”

“That ordinance could be subject to challenge,” Petruff said. “At this juncture, the city needs to make a choice and move on.”

The choice seemed easy for commissioners, who only this summer, while researching an inquiry from an adult-entertainment business, realized the land-development code does not address such businesses.

“I think the citizens would like to see a complete prohibition,” said Sandy Haas-Martens, who chairs the commission.

“I don’t like to open the door for somebody to walk in and start something that we don’t want in the first place,” said Commissioner Pat Morton.

Commissioners Pat Geyer, John Monetti and David Zaccagnino agreed.

“Close all the avenues,” Monetti said. “Take the high ground. My opinion has not changed from day one.”

Zaccagnino, who works in investments, said he tries to minimize risk in his professional life, but “in the words of our mayor, ‘Let the chips fall where they may.’”

The commission endorsed the ordinance. A vote is expected during a meeting at 7 p.m. at city hall Oct. 23.

In other business Oct. 9, commissioners gave final unanimous approval to an ordinance amending the city’s regulations on signs.

Before the second reading and final vote on the ordinance, commissioners heard from Holmes Beach resident Marguerite Carrick, who expressed concern about limits on the number of signs allowed for a yard sale.

Carrick, who was planning a yard sale, said the proposed ordinance seemed too strict, especially on the residents who simply want to hold a garage sale or open house.

She stressed that she wanted two directional signs allowed for yard sales.

When Hass-Martens told her that the commission previously added such a provision to the ordinance, Carrick happily thanked the board.

“All my friends will think I won,” she told the commission on her way out of the meeting.

Also last week, commissioners postponed action on a request to rezone the property at 401 Manatee Ave. from Commercial-1, appropriate for office space, to heavier use of C-2 or C-3 zoning while the lawyer for the applicant, LaPensee Plumbing, is absent.

The vote to continue the discussion was 4-1, with David Zaccagnino voting “no.” Zaccagnino had made a motion to approve a first reading of the rezoning request, but his motion lacked a second.

The plumbing company is considering a move from 5362 Gulf Drive to the Manatee Avenue location, but wants the city to rezone the property before making a purchase.

The city planning commission reviewed LaPensee’s application in mid-September and recommended a C-2 rezoning, appropriate for office and some retail, along with a special exception to park the service vehicles rather than a C-3, which the company requested.

But city planner Bill Brisson said last week that a C-2 designation with a special exception seemed inappropriate for the type of business the plumbing company wants to operate — a showroom and offices, but also lots of service vehicle use and parking, as well as deliveries.

Furthermore, Brisson cautioned the city commission that designating the property for C-3 could pave the way for additional C-3 designations nearby, creating the potential for big retail establishments on an already heavily traveled section of Manatee Avenue.

“That’s the gateway to the city,” Brisson said. “It’s also a major roadway that’s getting very close to its level of service right now.”

Petruff suggested the commission continue the discussion to Oct. 23.

“The issues raised tonight are critical issues,” she said.