MIDLOTHIAN — You can take your clothes off in Midlothian, but if you are going to do it for money, the city is going to tell you where, when and how to do it.
The Midlothian City Council is refining its sexually-oriented business ordinance to close some perceived loopholes and carefully define the regulations and zoning affecting strip clubs, adult bookstores and massage parlors.
“We have ordinances on the books limiting sexually-oriented businesses and we are just looking to tighten up some of the language,” Midlothian planning director John Garfield said. “We have been working on this for several months. Portions of it have gone back and forth between staff, the city council and our attorney.”
Garfield said the new ordinance has two major changes:
• Sexually-oriented businesses must have a 1,500-foot set back from any state or federal roadway.
• Sexually-oriented businesses may not locate within 1,500-feet of other sexually-oriented businesses.
“The idea is to keep these businesses from clustering and hurting neighborhoods or specific part of our community,” Garfield said. “The courts have ruled you can’t keep these types of businesses out, but you can regulate by ordinance where they locate and how and when they operate.”
The city’s ordinance would only affect businesses locating inside the city limits.
Midlothian Mayor Boyce Whatley has said the city gets between one and two requests a year from attorneys wanting copies of the city’s sexually-oriented business ordinance.
“Right now, the only place one of these businesses could locate in Midlothian would be in one of our cement quarries,” Whatley said during a recent council meeting. “The Metroplex is growing and Midlothian is growing. We just need to have everything ready the day someone seriously considers bringing one of these businesses to town.”
Garfield said the decision to tighten up the city’s ordinance is not related to the recent referendum to sell beer and mixed drinks in the city.
“They are two separate issues and would require two separate permits,” Garfield said. “The ordinances and regulations for those permits would have to be met before we issued a permit for either.”
The city’s ordinance for selling alcohol encompasses how close an establishment can be to a school or church.
The city’s ordinance for a sexually-oriented business deals more with the operations and practices for that type business.
“The new ordinance does define physical contact with the customer, the layout of the business, how visible and open different areas of the business are and requirements for the owners, operators and employees of sexually-oriented businesses,” Garfield said, noting the city’s ordinance doesn’t prevent a sexually-oriented business from locating on highways and roads outside the city limits.
“The county has some requirements for those type of businesses, but state law doesn’t give them a lot of control over where they locate or how they operate,” Garfield said. “Zoning is typically the only way the courts have allowed communities to limit or regulate sexually-oriented businesses. The county has no zoning regulations.”
Garfield said Midlothian’s ordinance continues to make the rounds of attorneys, the city council and staff.
“The city has made changes and written language and then our legal staff looks at it and makes changes,” Garfield said. “It will go back before the board on Feb. 12 and we look to have our new ordinance formally in place soon after.”
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