After a long debate with citizens making arguments for and against adult use zoning, Northampton’s Planning Board approved an ordinance to regulate the location of large adult businesses. If a business has more than 1,000 square feet of adult material on display, it must be located in Northampton’s Highway Business Zone and be at least 500 feet away from homes, schools, houses of worship, and certain other places where children are likely to be found. Read the complete ordinance.
The ordinance was crafted to balance free speech concerns with community concerns about the secondary effects of large adult businesses. City councilors mentioned that their constituents signaled strong support for the ordinance with calls and emails. Council president Michael A. Bardsley noted that concerns of censorship had been raised in the late 1990s when the city considered (and passed) zoning regulations for live nude dancing. In the wake of that ordinance, he said, the cultural life of Northampton has not suffered.
Wayne Feiden, director of Northampton’s Office of Planning and Developent, and other speakers reassured attendees that the ordinance under consideration was not necessarily the final word on the subject for all time, and that the people always are free to make adjustments to Northampton’s zoning ordinances down the road, should they find these ordinances are no longer serving their needs.
Former city councilor Bill Dwight, who works at Pleasant Street Video, expressed concern that the ordinance might affect the store because they have interspersed some NC-17 titles throughout their display racks. The presence of an “adult” title in a display rack would make the floor space around that rack count towards the 1,000 square foot threshold for regulation. Mr. Feiden said that concern could be addressed by Pleasant Street Video consolidating its adult titles into a few all-adult display racks, which should keep them comfortably below the threshold.
The ordinance, originally proposed by mayor Mary Clare Higgins and city councilors Marianne L. LaBarge and Marilyn A. Richards, will now be reviewed by Northampton’s Economic Development Housing & Land Use Committee (EDHLU) next week. If approved by EDHLU, it will then be considered by Northampton’s City Council for enactment.
Friday’s Gazette writes about the decision in “Planning Board recommends ‘adult’ ordinance:
“In the end, the board voted 4-3 to recommend the ordinance to the City Council. Michael Bardsley, Marianne LaBarge and Marilyn Richards, who form the Ordinance Subcommittee, all spoke strongly in its favor.”
The Republican writes about the decision in “‘Hamp limits adult displays”:
Residents of the King Street neighborhood applauded the ordinance…saying it balances free speech rights with their concerns.
“It meets reasonable expectations,” said Mary Yun, who lives at 94 Market St. “The reasonable expectations my husband and I had when we moved into this neighborhood that we should be able to raise our children here.”
The Planning Board was divided…David Wilensky called it a “terrible idea,” saying that the ordinance is tailored toward regulating a specific store.
“Passing a law to keep somebody from owning a business is probably not the best kind of law,” he said.
But City Council President Michael A. Bardsley, who sits on the Ordinance Committee, said the city regulates businesses all the time.
“It’s our job to regulate business,” he said. “It’s not appropriate to have a large pornographic establishment nestled in a neighborhood. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”