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Date of Issue: September 06, 2007

Holmes Beach board seeks to deter adult business

The Holmes Beach City Commission last week tentatively backed a proposal that would deter - but not ban - a sexually oriented business from setting up shop in the city.

The proposal came from city planning consultant Bill Brisson after discussions with the city attorney and provided for a small zone in which a sexually oriented business might exist.

The area, tentatively, would be “on East Bay Drive, either in the immediate vicinity of the Publix or within the shopping center to the south, up to but not including the southernmost part of the shopping center,” said Brisson.

He told commissioners that “the city’s regulation of sexually oriented adult-use establishments should be so construed as to result in there being at least one location within the city where such a use would be possible,” but that the location need not be vacant nor “commercially feasible.”

In other words, Brisson said the city shouldn’t outright ban sexually oriented businesses, but it could certainly make opening such a business unattractive and unlikely.

The commission has taken up the issue following the receipt of a July 13 letter addressed to the city and requesting “information needed for settlement of a business in the area of adult industry.”

“We did get an inquiry,” said Sandy Haas-Martens, the commission chair. “And we thought we’d try, as Barney Fife would say, to nip it in the bud.”

The inquiry was on stationary for a company called Power Vision and was signed by Ts Todorova, director of Power Vision. The address given for Power Vision was Bulgaria, 1000 Sofia, 25 Vitosha Blvd.

The letter began, “We are a Bulgarian company. In the goals of our management it is included the creation of a settlement of American corporation based in the city of Holmes Beach. The manner and the structure of its establishment is a question of future decision.”

The American company, according to the correspondence, would contract with iModels Limited in the Bahamas in partnership with Web Power Inc. in the United States.

The letter suggested that Power Vision wants to rent office space where it can set up a Web-based operation - with computers, cameras, speakers - to produce and broadcast “specific anatomical zones and specific sexual activities.”

The letter requested details on the licensing process for Power Vision and identifies Nikolay Zamfirov of Largo, Fla., as the company’s U.S. representative.

Holmes Beach commissioners said they didn’t know how serious the inquiry was from Power Vision, but they agreed that they want to amend city regulations to deal with adult-themed businesses.

A memo from Brisson to the commission recommended that a sexually oriented business be restricted to a C-3 commercial zoning district and at least 2,500 feet from schools and 500 feet from single-family homes, parks, churches and libraries.

“Usually, sexually oriented adult-use establishments … are limited to industrial districts or heavy commercial districts,” Brisson told the commission.

He added that such businesses are usually required to be at some distance from “residential zoning, churches, schools, libraries, parks.” A common distance is at least 1,000 feet from such a property.

But using the 1,000-foot rule would eliminate any opportunity in Holmes Beach, Brisson said.

All the commissioners agreed that they’d like to eliminate any opportunity.

However, Brisson and city attorney Patricia Petruff warned of legal repercussions with such a restriction.

“There would be a substantial likelihood that your ordinance would not be upheld,” Petruff cautioned, adding that the Power Vision inquiry might be a setup for a lawsuit. “The case law was clear that you cannot have an outright ban or prohibition.”

“We are trying to provide at least one location,” Brisson said.

“Is that for ACLU purposes?” asked Haas-Martens, referring to the American Civil Liberties Union, a legal watchdog group that handles constitutional cases.

After some discussion, the majority of commissioners - Haas-Martens, Pat Geyer and David Zaccagnino - agreed that to avoid lawsuits, the city needs to designate at least one site for a potential business.

“Morally I would like to eliminate the entire city,” Zaccagnino said. “At the same time, we may be getting set up.”

Commissioners John Monetti and Pat Morton remained opposed. “We’re afraid and taking the moral low road,” Morton said. “I’m trying not to come up with a location, honestly.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger weighed in, saying, “I believe the door is open, isn’t it?”

Yes, replied Brisson, adding, “We need to do something.”

Brisson’s initial recommendation, however, may require some tweaking because two new linear parks exist near Publix. He may also recommend that such a sexually oriented business go through a “special exception” process.

In other business, city commissioners discussed the trolley system in fiscal 2007-08, a proposed amendment to the city’s agreement for trash removal with Waste Management Inc., the city’s sign ordinance and an ordinance on docking and mooring in canals.

The city commission’s next meeting is to take place Tuesday, Sept. 4, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. with a hearing on the proposed 2007-08 fiscal budget, followed by a regular board meeting and work session.

A final budget hearing and city commission meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18.