Archive for Thursday, March 16, 2000

DeSoto City Council gets a jump on adult businesses

March 16, 2000

Nearly a year ago an adult-oriented business moved into Olathe before the city council could come up with laws to regulate the zoning of such an establishment.

With no ordinance in place, the shop, which obtained its business license by calling itself a gift shop, was allowed to move in next to a Christian daycare center.

Earlier, Overland Park and Lee's Summit, Mo., had similar occurrences.

Now, DeSoto is taking precautions to make sure it doesn't happen here.

The DeSoto City Council recently passed an ordinance that will restrict not only where an adult business can set up shop within the city limits, but also what kind of adult activities will be permitted.

The ordinance outlaws completely nude dancing establishments and makes it illegal for a regulated adult-oriented business to operate within 750 feet of a school, daycare center, church or another adult-oriented business.

Currently, DeSoto has no adult-oriented businesses. However, if the Wonderful World of Oz theme park becomes a reality, DeSoto will go through a dramatic growth spurt, Mayor Steve Prudden said, which would attract all sorts of new business.

"With growth comes these kinds of businesses," Prudden said. "We just want to have some control."

City Attorney Michael Howe agreed, calling this a case of DeSoto using an ounce of prevention.

"In the last 10 years, in my role as a city attorney, a lot of communities are saying it probably could never happen here, but they are taking action just to make sure," Howe said.

Some would call this a case of local governments legislating morality. In a sense, that's true, Howe said. However, he added, in the big picture, this is a zoning issue.

"People have a right to expression and that's not being prohibited here," Howe said. "It's simply being regulated."

Howe is no stranger to this issue. He has written similar "preventive legislation" for the cities of Shawnee and Lenexa. Much of the information compiled for DeSoto's ordinance came from laws in those cities.

In addition, Howe collected statistical information provided by a national law-enforcement organization. The research indicated adult-oriented businesses can cause a number of problems for a community, including the promotion of prostitution and a threat to public peace.

"The degradation of a neighborhood and crime can occur," Howe said.

That's one of the reasons for the stipulation that no two adult businesses can set up shop within 750 feet. By doing this, Howe said, DeSoto ensures that it will not have an adult entertainment district within its city limits.

"That seems to be the preferred mode that cities have taken," Howe said. "That way it simply will not create an area of town that becomes a mecca for that type of activity. By having all of the businesses conglomerated into one area, you potentially risk disrupting an entire section of town."

Prudden is convinced Oz will bring this element of entrepreneurialism. Zoning these kinds of businesses away from the family-oriented Oz theme park is a major concern. He said he received direction from a Johnson County overlay district, which has a jurisdiction on much of the county land bordering Kansas Highway 10 and already has an ordinance in place outlawing adult entertainment establishments.

The overlay district covers outlying parts of DeSoto, but very little of the current city limits.

"Basically, we're lining up our future for zoning," Prudden said.

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