Sex shop requests injunction for its site; Adult business claims county ordinance violates its rights


An adult magazine and video store in Ellicott City is seeking an injunction to prevent Howard County from forcing it to move.

The request, filed Tuesday in Howard County Circuit Court, contends that a county ordinance violates the Pack Shack's First Amendment right to free speech, said an attorney representing the store in the 8400 block of U.S. 40.

"We believe that the ordinance will be invalidated because it offends the Constitution," said Howard J. Schulman. "We're confident that in the long run, the courts will sustain our constitutional position."

The request pre-empts a move by county officials, who had said that they would seek an injunction today to shut down the sexually oriented store, which is one of two adult-entertainment businesses in the county.

Deputy County Solicitor Paul Johnson declined to comment until he had a chance to read the request, which had not been delivered to his office yesterday.

Franklin V. Goodridge Jr., founder of Men Against Pornography, an Ellicott City-based group that fought the Pack Shack, said he was not surprised.

"I'm kind of disappointed that the Pack Shack is dragging its feet," Goodridge said. "But they're hanging on by a string, and that string is about to snap."

Former County Councilman Darrel E. Drown, who represented Ellicott City and helped draft the law, said: "If they knew that something was wrong, they could've filed some thing a year ago. They're subverting the process to continue their operations and to put their sleaze out into the neighborhood."

Adopted by the County Council in December 1997, the ordinance confines adult-entertainment businesses -- including adult bookstores, movie theaters and live entertainment clubs -- to general business areas.

The ordinance requires that the businesses be at least 500 feet from residential communities, libraries, schools, parks, day care centers and churches, and at least 2,500 feet from any other sexually oriented business.

The Pack Shack is less than 500 feet from the Normandy Woods apartment complex.

The law does not affect the county's other adult business, Adult Video & Books on U.S. 1 in Elkridge. That store is operating in a zoning district that does not allow retail establishments.

County efforts to evict Adult Video & Books are pending until the Howard County Circuit Court reviews an appeal filed by that store's lawyer.

Pack Shack's owners had a year to select and move to any one of 23 permitted sites in the county, but Schulman said that the ordinance effectively bans adult businesses from the county.

"This litigation had its genesis in the picketing of that store by a group of people who didn't like it," he said. "All of the regulations are nothing but a pretext to take somebody's property and throw them out."

Schulman rejected any suggestion that he intentionally waited until the last minute to file the request. There was no requirement that the business take action earlier, he said, "so I don't view it as a stall."

Goodridge said a community picnic is being organized for the property once the Pack Shack is forced to close.

Sun staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/04/99

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