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Adult business rule loosened

How many adult bookstores, theaters and other businesses should the city allow so that its residents may exercise their constitutional right to freedom of speech?

The answer, the New Port Richey City Council decided Tuesday night, is two or three.

There's one in town now. Ever since the Pasco Pussycat, an adult movie theater and bookstore, decided to move into the city's industrial area on Orchid Lake Road more than a year ago, the City Council has worked to establish and refine its ordinances dealing with adult businesses.

Tuesday night it unanimously approved an ordinance that would require all such businesses to locate within the city's small industrially zoned area. And, within that area, the businesses must be no closer than 500 feet to all homes, churches, parks or schools. And no closer than 200 feet to each other. The ordinance will not be final until it is voted on a second time.

Because the city's industrial area is small _ about 1.5 percent of the 2,500 acres within the city limits _ those distance requirements would limit the number of adult businesses allowed to no more than two or three, Fred Metcalf, the city's development services director, told the council.

Under the city's current ordinance, which allows the businesses to locate within 100 feet of homes, schools, churches and parks and no closer than 1,000 feet from each other, only one and maybe a second adult business would be allowed in the city.

Loosening the regulations is important, City Attorney Lisa Bennett has told the council, because if the city's ordinance is too restrictive, it could be overturned by the courts as being a deterrent to freedom of speech.

Courts have ruled that cities can't zone such businesses out of business just because city officials don't like them, Bennett has told the council. However, cities can make rules that regulate their operation and where they can be put as long as it is established that the businesses have "negative secondary impacts" such as a higher crime rate, she said. But those rules can't be so restrictive that a court might rule that they are preventing freedom of speech.

"I am hoping that two to three would be sufficient in allowing them to have freedom of speech," council member Heather Fiorentino said.

"I believe that should be sufficient _ more than sufficient _ for 13,000 people," said Vice Mayor Wendy Brenner.

Council member Ted Thomas said the Pasco Pussycat _ the only adult book and video rental establishment in Pasco County _ already is serving the needs of the city's residents and others as well.

"Apparently we are not only serving the needs of New Port Richey but we are serving the needs of all the people around here," Thomas said.

"Hopefully . . . it's not overly restrictive," council member Frank Parker said.

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