State Land-Use Planner: “Once the ‘use’ is located in your community, it’s very difficult to get rid of them”

The Union-News takes a broad look at adult-use zoning in “Zone laws can restrict sex shops”, 12/1/95:

X-rated entertainment may be protected by the First Amendment, but communities are finding other legal ways to restrict its growth. Chagrined Hadley officials awoke in October to find an X-rated book and video store at the town’s busiest gateway on Route 9 in a building that sits partly on public park land.

With a 15-year lease, no local zoning prohibitions, and all the protections of the First Amendment, the owners of Adults Only, a chain of stores in Springfield, West Springfield and Agawam, appear to be in for the duration.

By law, such stores cannot be prohibited. But state and local officials say there are ways to combat the spread of X-rated retail outlets by restricting them to certain less-visible parts of town.

“My general message is that once the ‘use’ is located in your community, it’s very difficult to get rid of them,” said Donald J. Schmidt, principal land-use planner for the state Executive Office of Communities and Development…

“If communities take time now to look at their zoning regulations, you can really lessen the impact dramatically so (an adult-entertainment business) doesn’t pop up next to a high school, church or day-care center, to use those as examples,” he said.

Since 1988, Springfield, West Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke and Palmer have enacted zoning changes to regulate the location of sexually oriented businesses, mostly book and video outlets, according to the state attorney general’s office…

Holyoke tightened its zoning in 1993 by allowing adult bookstores, theaters and nude dance clubs in three zones only, said Planning Board member Jane Cameron.

Such businesses can’t be within 500 feet of homes or churches, or within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds or parks. So far, Holyoke only has one club that features nude dancing…

Palmer voters changed their zoning in 1994 to require special permits for adult entertainment.

Betsy Doyen, Chicopee’s planning director, said city zoning limits X-rated shop locations.

“Effectively, it keeps them out of the residential areas,” Doyen said…

2 thoughts on “State Land-Use Planner: “Once the ‘use’ is located in your community, it’s very difficult to get rid of them”

  1. I’m glad you brought up Hadley. Can you follow up with how much crime increased in Hadley after the adult bookstore opened?

    I also like what Palmer did: leave the choice to the voters. Would you support such a referendum?

  2. Asking proponents of adult-use zoning to prove that every adult business everywhere leads to increased crime is an unreasonable standard, and fortunately the courts agree. There are a sufficient number of studies that demonstrate this risk, forming an acceptable basis for zoning. You could call it a preponderance of the evidence. Your extreme requirements would lead to complete community paralysis in the face of these known risks.

    It’s not a certainty that allowing Northampton bars to stay open all night would negatively impact surrounding neighborhoods, yet we still ask them to close at 2am.

    As for Palmer’s referendum, I have no fear about taking our case to the voters. By all means, agitate for a referendum. Our hundreds of petitions indicate where the voters’ sentiments lie. In the meantime, Capital Video presents Northampton with a challenge that must be resolved immediately. The City Council can use zoning to address the present issue, and then their decision can ratified by referendum if that would make you more comfortable with it.

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