Clay Co. leaders examine adult business ordinance

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - Clay County's Economic Development Committee met Tuesday to begin drafting an ordinance that regulates adult entertainment stores.

When a businessman recently asked the county if he could open an adult bookstore, the county researched the idea and found a zoning ordinance in place since 1985 that bans sexual oriented businesses is not enforceable because sexual-oriented businesses are protected under the U.S. Constitution.

The idea is controversial, with some saying an adult business will bring property values in the community down and could endanger children.

"You guys ran on family values. Don't give into special interests," resident Marcus Smith told the committee.

Others welcome the idea of adult businesses, saying it will enhance marriages.

"Me and my wife are open to things like that. It's not a problem. I'm a consumer," said Wilbert Williams of Green Cove Springs.

"People have the right to go in. If they want to go in great. If not, they can stay out," said a woman who didn't want to give her name.

Despite the controversy, County Attorney Mark Scruby says the commissioners should not try to fight being proactive and allowing these business to legally operate in the unincorporated areas of the county.

"If you fight this, you're facing a possible lawsuit from the High Court," Scruby said.

Tuesday's meeting ended with a unanimous vote to stop the process of drafting a new ordinance, but hire some constitutional lawyers to look at the existing law to see if it can be revised to prohibit adult businesses.

Whatever happens, there will be at least two public hearings before commissioners take a vote on the issue -- likely early in 2014 -- but opposition is likely to remain controversial at every step of the process.

"Why bring it to Clay County? Clay County has a good rep," said resident Jerry Shonk. "You're bringing stuff like this in and all you are asking for is -- in my opinion -- a criminal element."

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