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County drafts limits on adult entertainment

Commissioners heeding Hudson residents' complaints will consider regulations on strip clubs and similar businesses.

Since spring, Hudson residents have been exhorting Pasco County commissioners to crack down on the adult businesses popping up along U.S. 19.

They're getting some action.

On Tuesday, commissioners will examine a proposal that would impose tough new regulations on strip clubs, adult bookstores and theaters, escort services and massage parlors.

The proposed ordinance would include a ban on alcohol sales in adult establishments and would require businesses owners to clear criminal background checks and obtain a license from the county at a cost of $500 the first year and $400 annually thereafter.

Adult businesses violating county ordinances four times in 12 months would lose their licenses for a year.

"This is quite extensive," said commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand. "This is almost like a Webster's dictionary."

The proposed law will be introduced at Tuesday's County Commission meeting. From there it will go to the Land Development Review Committee for debate. Two public hearings are also scheduled for Sept. 8 and Oct. 19.

County attorneys have been working on the 41-page ordinance for months. They were spurred into action mainly by a group of Hudson residents who complained _ loudly _ about the proliferation of adult businesses near their neighborhoods.

In April, about 100 Hudson residents converged on the commission and begged county officials to do something about the industry's growth. They said they counted no fewer than 13 adult bars or video stores along U.S. 19. In one instance, an adult business was located across the street from a school bus stop.

"I'm elated that citizens in this community have banded together in a grass-roots effort to rid our streets of porn peddlers and hotbeds of criminal activity," said Eric West, a Hudson dad who has been fighting the area's adult businesses since 1994. "We have vowed to take back our neighborhoods."

The new law is needed, Hildebrand said, because Pasco's regulations are out of date and do not provide an adequate definition of adult entertainment. The proposed law gives detailed accounts of what the county will consider adult activities.

Assistant County Attorney R.C. Burnette drafted the proposed law. He declined to comment until after county lawyers introduce their ordinance Tuesday. Sheriff's Office spokesman Jon Powers also declined to comment.

The ordinance allows adult businesses in industrial areas. Businesses operating legally in other areas have one year to move or change the nature of their business, according to a draft of the ordinance. And no adult activity could take place in a room smaller than 1,000 square feet.

"We're trying to regulate this industry," Hildebrand said. "The residents of Hudson wanted this on our front burner."

_ Times staff writer Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6241. His e-mail address is kfischersptimes.com.

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