News Column

Coventry tables adult biz talks until January

August 26, 2014

By Danielle Faipler, The Chronicle, Willimantic, Conn.



Aug. 26--COVENTRY -- The town council steering committee will continue mulling the adoption of an ordinance that regulates sexually oriented businesses.

Its members Monday said they will pick the discussion up in January.

Town Manager John Elsesser said the committee wants to talk to the town attorney to see his thoughts and to find out what role zoning laws would play in dictating where an adult business could be established.

The committee also wants to talk to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities to research which towns already have ordinances and what those ordinances are.

The ordinance categorizes a variety of such businesses ranging from massage parlors to adult bookstores as " sexually oriented businesses."

"We appreciate the person from Berlin who sent this, but we want to find the experience of other towns and we want to research the experience of other towns," said Elsesser.

By adopting an ordinance, the town council would have authority regulating the establishment of sexually oriented businesses and not zoning regulations. "It's a different approach and they have successfully overcome some legal challenges, which means a path has been set," said Elsesser.

The town has not received any applications for a business to be established nor have there been any rumors. Seven years ago, however, Coventry did receive interest from such a business. According to Elsesser, before Weston'sAuction Gallery was opened, there were talks of an adult business settling into 2799 Boston Turnpike storefront.

However, the landowners decided they did not want that kind of business there.

Elsesser said it was important to take action sooner rather than later in the effort to ensure rights of businesses are not violated.

"Anytime you regulate a business, you want to regulate on sound grounds and make sure you're not infringing on constitutional rights," he said. "You can't wait until it happens, because then it is too late, and you're focusing on stopping that one business instead of regulating the entity of businesses."

The ordinance, which was sent by Berlin resident and pastor, Scott Shemeth, has been challenged four times in court since Berlin adopted it in 2000 and one case was appealed until it reached the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The owners of the business wanted to establish an adult store along a residential strip of the Berlin Turnpike, and argued the ordinance was unconstitutional, but the ordinance held up to every trial.

Shemeth began working on the ordinance in 1997 after passing a strip club situated near a McDonald's and medical building on his way to work. The business was along a sidewalk where children rode their bikes and families went for walks.

He proposed the ordinance to Berlin in 1999 and, since the ordinance was adopted, the situation in that town has improved regarding such adult- oriented businesses, according to Shemeth.

Shemeth waited until this year to send the informational packet regarding the ordinance to every Connecticut municipality until he was sure it would hold up in a court of law.

According to Shemeth, sexually oriented businesses migrate to the most vulnerable areas, which are areas that do not have guidelines regulating them. Shemeth said there are harmful secondary effects that come with adult businesses, such as increased rates of crime.

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(c)2014 The Chronicle (Willimantic, Conn.)

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Source: Chronicle, The (Willimantic, CT)


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