Adult video shops, bookstores face court action against them


Even as one begins its fight to remain open with a zoning appeals hearing tonight, Anne Arundel County expects to move against several adult video shops and bookstores before the end of the month and ask the county's courts to shut them down.

Only one of five stores that was told to either close, move, or register with the Department of Planning and Zoning as a nonconforming use has answered the county's order. Notices stating the businesses were in violation of new zoning provisions were sent in December and January, giving the stores 60 days to file. Once they become nonconforming, they are given six months to move.

"Now we pursue legal action," said Richard Josephson, county zoning administrator.

Tonight, the county Board of Appeals is scheduled to hear the first challenge of those zoning violation notices.

2020C West Street Inc. in Parole and the store's landlords are fighting the validity of the provisions under which the county considers the store a nonconforming use, their lawyers said.

The store, already engaged in court battles with the county over the law, may register as a nonconforming use under protest if it loses tonight's zoning appeal, said 2020C attorney Burton W. Sandler. He said it would appeal any adverse ruling to Circuit Court.

Deputy County Attorney David Plymyer said the county maintains the law is not vague and that the government is within its right to create a zoning law that covers adult book and video shops.

Only Annapolis Road Ltd. in Odenton registered with the county as a nonconforming business. That was done as a legal maneuver to keep the county from moving to close it, said the store's attorney, William Seekford.

Mr. Plymyer said he plans to ask the courts "within the next week or two" to order the other four stores to close.

Annapolis Road is one of two stores involved in challenges to a law the county adopted in 1991 and later amended after zoning officials failed to enforce the first one. At least five cases challenging different parts of the law are in various courts.

The law, the first county effort to regulate stores that have peep shows and trade in sex-related material, attempts to locate such businesses away from all residential and most business areas. Some involved have been at their addresses for several years.

One of the stores that did not register as a nonconforming use is Loved One's Lingerie & Gift Center in Severn. Its attorney said the law is so vague that the shopkeeper does not know what he is not conforming to or what merchandise the law covers.

The store owners would fight attempts by the county to close it, he said.

"My client would love to comply with the statute, but it [the store] needs guidance," lawyer David S. Goldberg said.

The law defines an adult bookstore as a commercial establishment that as "one of its principal business purposes" sells or rents sexually oriented materials. Video stores that keep a small room of adult entertainment rentals are not affected.

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