City defines sex shop limitations

By By Thomas Tingle
Record Managing Editor
Now that the Madison City Council has approved a new ordinance restricting sex shops to industrial zoned areas, how is the new ordinance for this type of business defined by the governing body?
The ordinance was approved at the council's July 22 meeting. Prior to its approval, if a person wanted to open a sex shop in Madison, that shop could have been located in any one of the three commercial districts that already exist in the city.
At the present time, there are no sex shops located in Madison, and, according to Madison Revenue Department Director Cameron Grounds, no person has come to his office seeking to locate a sex shop in town.
The new ordinance approved by the city council is defined as:
"Sexually oriented business: any business exhibiting any one or more of the following characteristics: A – the business holds itself out to the public as a "sex business," "adult business," or similar by advertising itself as such in the local media or through the use of signage or other forms of communication. Use of the letters "XXX" or the terms "sex" or "adult" in signage or advertising shall create a presumption that the business is a sexually-oriented businesses; B – More than five percent of the business' stock in trade or five percent of its gross floor area consists of instruments, devices, or paraphernalia either designed as representations of the female breasts or human genital organs, or designed or marketed for use primarily to stimulate the human genital organs; C – The business offers for sale, rent, or on-premise viewing or listening any written, printed, pictorial, film, videotape, electronic media, or other material which is designed or marketed for use primarily to stimulate the human genital organs."
Madison Community Development Director Bob Atallo said there are three commercial districts located in Madison. The first commercial district is a B-1 district, which is a considered a small-scale business district. Hughes Plaza and the Madison Municipal Complex are the only B-1 developments in Madison. The second commercial district is a B-2 district. It is a community commercial district that serves part of the city but not the entire city. Kroger Plaza is located in a B-2 district. The third commercial district is a B-3 district, which is a general commercial district. It serves the entire city of Madison. Wal-Mart is located in a B-3 district.
Atallo said sex shops are not allowed to locate in any of these three districts. They are limited to only an M-1 or and M-2 industrial district. In other communities – like neighboring Huntsville, Atallo said there is no distinction between sex shops and other businesses.
"In Huntsville, an adult bookstore could locate anywhere a "bookstore" would be allowed. However, in my personal experience, this is the exception and not the rule," Atallo said. "It is more common to do what Madison has just done – restricting adult businesses to industrial areas."
Atallo said had the city council not approved the new ordinance, a sex shop is considered the same type of business as a jewelry store or sporting goods store or shoe store.
"For instance, that is why Pleasures can legally located in the same shopping center as Shoe Carnival in Huntsville," Atallo said. "A store like Frederick's of Hollywood, which sells clothing and not sex toys, does not fall into the same definition of this ordinance. If it did sell sex toys, then it would be restricted to the M-1 or M-2 zone."

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