San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 11th, 2010
Council in dilemma concerning SOB zoning

010610sobThe purple areas on the above graphic showing the south and east sides of San Marcos would be open to adult businesses under a proposed ordinance in front of the San Marcos City Council. City of San Marcos graphic.

Associate Editor

The San Marcos City Council is in the horns of a dilemma as it attempts to write an ordinance for zoning sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) within the city.

Should the city zone specifically for SOBs, which, according to city officials, is likely to doom that part of town to blight and high crime? Or should the city follow the more standard municipal practice of allowing SOBs in areas zoned for industry, which would open them to a section of town that stands to benefit from about $175 million in public investment and includes some of the city’s heaviest employers?

The council voted unanimously to table such an SOB zoning ordinance last week, indicating a desire to extend a moratorium on SOBs for another two months to work out some of the remaining issues. The council passed an emergency six-month moratorium on such businesses last May, then extended it by two months last November. That extension expires later this month.

The council first passed the moratorium because existing legislation leaves 26-percent of the city open for SOBs. That availability became salient last May, when the city extended bar hours from midnight to 2 a.m., thereby making San Marcos a more enticing marketplace for strip clubs.

In the proposed ordinance, the city’s planning department zoning specifications for adult oriented businesses limiting them to heavy-industrial and light-industrial districts. The available land area for adult oriented businesses under the proposed ordinance would be 834 acres (4.4 percent of the city’s area), according to Assistant Planning Director Matthew Lewis.

To the council’s dismay, the allowable areas for adult oriented businesses would mainly be clustered along the southeast parts of San Marcos, along Clovis Barker Road, which lies between Wonder World Drive and McCarty Lane east of Interstate-35. Among the public projects either completed or in the works for that area of the city are the $26.4 million Wonder World extension, a three-mile stretch of the planned southeastern loop (FM 110) near McCarty Lane for $29.4 million, the $21 million City of San Marcos Conference Center on McCarty Lane just east of IH-35, a $6.9 million widening project for Hunter Road between Wonder World Drive and Bishop Street, a $74 million proposed Hays County government center near Wonder World Drive and Stagecoach Trail, and a United States Armed Forces Reserve Center near Clovis Barker Road just east of IH-35.

The city’s industrial areas also include major employers such as C-FAN on the north side and the H-E-B distribution center on the south side. A year ago, the city agreed to an incentive package worth $1.36 million in property tax refunds for the H-E-B facility, which would double its size with an additional 750,000 square feet and add 320 new jobs.

Narvaiz voiced concerned over the location of allowable areas for adult oriented businesses and the secondary effects that could jeopardize the millions of dollars in investments local governments have allocated to improve the area.

“We’re limiting the possibility (of adult oriented businesses from coming to San Marcos), but legally we can’t outlaw them,” said San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz. “But we’re doing everything we can to protect our city.”

Councilmember Kim Porterfield asked for reassurance that the policy be “onerous” and as “restrictive as possible” in efforts to repress adult businesses from expanding into San Marcos. In a tense moment during deliberations, Councilmember Chris Jones asked that Porterfield be cautious in vocalizing her opposition to SOBs, citing “future legal ramifications”.

Red faced and annoyed, Porterfield turned to City Attorney Michael Cosentino and asked, “Should I be censured for what I just said, Mr. Cosentino?” asked a red-faced and annoyed Porterfield.

Jones quickly interjected, “You know what, Councilmember Porterfield, I wasn’t trying to censure you!”

At that point, Narvaiz ended the exchange to move the discussion back to the merits.

Councilmember John Thomaides wondered aloud if elected officials in San Marcos have ever produced an ordinance aimed at discouraging a specific type of business from investing in the city, an idea that provided a little comic relief to a somewhat uncomfortable and passionate discussion.

The proposed ordinance states that the council finds that the Texas Legislature has determined that sexually oriented businesses may be detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare of a community by contributing to the decline of neighborhoods and contributing to the growth of criminal activity, including sex-related infractions.

Narvaiz also wanted the proposed ordinance to go further and call for a public hearing at the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) level as a vehicle for public debate when SOBs seek permitting. Narvaiz also wants surrounding residents and businesses to be alerted when adult businesses seek locations in San Marcos.

The San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) Chief of Police, under the proposed ordinance, would be tasked with permitting and issuing licenses to adult business if they meet all zoning regulations. The proposed annual fee for an adult business license is $1,000.

The proposed ordinance stipulates that adult businesses can’t be located within 1,000 feet of IH-35, nor could they set up within 1,500 feet of churches, schools, residential districts, parks, bars, other adult oriented businesses, and the Central Business Area (CBA).

The ordinance identifies adult oriented businesses as “a group of businesses involved in providing entertainment or amusement to a person or persons, such a type of business being an adult arcade, adult bookstore, adult cabaret, adult escort agency, adult massage establishment, adult motel, adult theater, adult novelty store, adult service establishment, adult video store, sex parlor, sexual encounter center, nude modeling studio, or other adult oriented business. ‘Other adult oriented business’ also includes any other commercial enterprise, that has as a primary business purpose of offering of a service or the selling, renting or exhibiting of material, devices or any other items, intended to provide sexual stimulation or sexual gratification to its customers, and which material, devices or any other item is distinguished by or characterized by an emphasis on matter depicting, describing or relating to specified sexual activities or specified anatomical areas, or whose employees or customers appear in a state of nudity.”

Nudity means “less than completely and opaquely covered human genitals, pubic region, pubic hair, all portions of a female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola continuing downward to the lowest portion of the breast, a human buttock, or any combination of the above.”

Adult cabarets would be required to prohibit exposing a performer’s or patron’s genitals, pubic region or other private areas. Adult entertainers would be prohibited from performing within three feet of a customer. Patrons would be prohibited from closed areas where they cannot be easily seen, excluding bathrooms, and the owner/manager of adult cabarets would be required to keep a list at the establishment of all employees, whether on or off-duty.

The prohibitions and requirements for adult cabarets prompted councilmember John Thomaides to ask about enforceability. Thomaides asked about who would be acting unlawfully when a patron tips a $1 to a performer, since such an exchange implies that the patron and performer would come within three feet of each other. SMPD Assistant Police Chief Warren Zerr said the department had not researched all aspects of the proposed legislation, but Lewis said the performer would be at fault.

The city council is scheduled to take the matter back up at its Jan. 19 meeting for a likely extension to the moratorium.

The city presently has no strip clubs. However, it has two adult book stores — The Talk of the Town on North IH-35 and Zone d’erotica on the far south end of the city.

(Editor’s note: The above has been revised to include a $25 million Armed Forces Reserve Center east of Interstate-35 between Wonder World Drive and McCarty Lane, bringing the total public investment to $175 million in an area where strip clubs would be permitted under a proposed ordinance.)

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33 thoughts on “Council in dilemma concerning SOB zoning

  1. “The proposed annual fee for an adult business license is $1,000” – that figure seems really low. if the city wants to discourage the SOBs, why not raise the fee so that these businesses prefer to stay in Austin and San Antonio?

  2. How about Springtown!?!?! It’s not like anything else is moving in over there and luckily it seems that the Springtown area is already doomed to blight and high crime.

  3. If our City Council’s past track record is any indicator, we’ll be offering them “incentives” before it’s all said and done!

  4. Nothing like some politically expedient opposition to what the council and many of the God-fearing people of San Marcos consider to be trashy businesses that have no place in our fine community.

    Meanwhile, who’s that slipping in the back door of the building to do a little shopping late at night????

  5. Councilmember Porterfield, yuor sue of the word onerous will come back to haunt you if a lawsuit is filed. As for SOBs (got to love that) being forced into areas with major employers, it’s called The Law of Unintended Consequence. Or, *bleep* happens.

  6. Do SOB’s REALLY “doom the area to blight and high crime”? What are the stat’s on that statement? It sounds like good old fashioned stereotyping to me.
    San Marcos is a small town that is (slowly) growing up and with that, we need to accept that fact that it will not always be a bumpkin town.

  7. Encouraging more sexually oriented businesses would be a step in the wrong direction for our community. And, I do not consider us a bumpkin town at all! San Marcos is and wants to be a place where families can live, work, learn, play, and enjoy life. Sexually oriented businesses do not improve our quality of life in any way.

  8. It’s funny really, how SOB’s (I do love typing that) seem to make lots of money even in places they aren’t welcome. It will be interesting to see where all the Libertarians (Ron Paul voters) fall on this issue. For the record, the only problem I have with SOB’s is when they are placed in working class neighborhoods to protect the property values of the wealthy. It will be no different with the people of San Marcos. The people with the least valuable homes will be forced to host the SOB’s in their neighborhoods for the rest of the city. Yawn….

  9. We may not have any SOB’s as such in the downtown area. But what about “wet T-shirt” contests in local bars? At least strippers have decent figures, which is not guaranteed with such frolics.

  10. It is funny how whenever this topic comes up, the opposition to these types of businesses seems near unanimous….but when the businesses do finally open, they’re almost always profitable. *Someone* has to be shopping there.

    For the record, I wouldn’t be a real fan of having one of these businesses in my backyard – but that’s why I chose to live out in the sticks. While I wouldn’t frequent such a place personally (I never even knew what “Talk of the Town” was), there’s still an unquestioned demand for them, and they have to go *somewhere*.

  11. Sex isn’t dirty.

    And for protecting families and children? Where the hell do you think babies come from?

  12. Babies certainly don’t come from the exploitation and denigration of women. If we are going to allow this, why don’t we push for the state legislature to allow prostitution? After all, sex isn’t dirty, right?

  13. Did you really just call pornography “the exploitation and denigration of women”? These women know what they’re doing and they can make an incredibly good living doing it. I think the ones being “exploited” are the dudes who pay for all of that stuff.

  14. These “sexually oriented businesses” are indeed part of the denigration and exploitation of women in our society today. Ask any father who has one or more daughters and they will understand. No father dreams of their daughter getting entrapped in these snares, but it happens. I believe the overwhelming majority of San Marcos citizens do not want more “sexually oriented businesses” in our community.

  15. WE should also ban the internet in San Marcos, because these cyberwaves are teeming with this vile pornography. And could we get rid of bikinis, because it also gives me dirty thoughts. In fact there are a number of bars on the square that I’d consider “sexually oriented businesses”. Maybe we should ban alchohol and the river while we’re at it. Ain’t it a slippery soap box to stand upon.

  16. So from reading thes comments, I deduce that gay porn is OK. It doesn’t exploit women, and doesn’t create babies or impure thoughts that lead to babies.

  17. The “head shop” (across the street from Paper Bear and the Hemp Store) on LBJ Dr. downtown, had at one time, an “adult” section. (I do not know the current status).

    Reportedly, they had for sale or rent or whatever they offered there, an “adult” movie, that was produced and filmed right here in San Marcos at the Sanctuary Lofts.

    Food for thought.

  18. IIRC, there was once a “back room” at one or more of the major video stores here in town for “adults only”. I don’t rent movies anymore, but I remember seeing the curtains and wondering what was so special back there….ahhh, the naivete of youth….

    So what happens to Hastings and Blockbuster when this ordinance passes (and it will – the “moral majority” will see to that)? For that matter, how long until R-rated movies are banned from the Starplex?

  19. Multiple studies during the past 10-15 years throughout the US associate many negative consequences from increasing presence of “sexually oriented businesses” including, decay of community moral standards, increased crime rate, and decreased property values.

    Problems are reported with “dead zones” (avoided by shoppers and families with children that do not want to be in areas that also have adult uses), high turnover rates in adjacent businesses, and higher sex crime rates in particular. Commercial property owners near these “sexually oriented businesses” will have loss of property value manifested in a variety of ways, including: increased operating costs, like additional security patrols, burglar alarms, and trash cleanup; property selling at much lower sales prices; and extreme difficulty in leasing properties.

    Why in the world would we want to encourage more “sexually oriented businesses” to come to our community, with all the problems they bring. And what an affront to the taxpaying citizen who would see more tax money devoted to this issue (for example, higher police costs are well documented in association with these establishments) rather than to fundamental community basic services.

    To preserve our quality of life, we need our leadership to take proper and thorough preventative action in updating the zoning ordinance and rules, permits, and other regulatory techniques.

  20. “decay of community moral standards”Sorry Steve but wof a study to have any value/merit, things must be quantifiable, that one simply is not. Perhaps in Salt Lake City or an Amish community, but not in the real world.

    “decreased property values” That must explain the plummeting property values all over the country, even in San Marcos, it couldn’t possably be the overall economy. And try telling that to the taxpayers around the Yellow Rose in Austin.

    “dead zones” You mean like the industrial areas the ordinace requires?

    “trash cleanup” The same can be said of fast food places, will the City be attempting to banish them as well, especially since studies conclude their food is bad for us?

    You see a lot of “consequences” can be “associated” with a lot of “causes” Doesn’t mean there is a cause efect relationship. Bottom line is the City mothers/fathers have more important things to spend their time, and the taxpayers money on, like streets, water, development issues etc etc ad infinitum

  21. And Steve, before you post the question, I’ll save you the time, since I live in an unincorporated area outside the City, there’s nothing I can do about it if a SOB (got to love that, no onter way of post SOB without getting it deleted) can build near me.

  22. Well, there was a “black curtain” at wholesome Paper Bear for adult party gifts
    .I do agree w/ JasonHarper that the middle and upper class will ban them in their neighborhoods (but will probably attend them as needed or for the novelty/thrill of adult orientated parties.) and that the sex clubs will infiltrate the lower-class areas (that will not be able to afford to support the business). As for the crime and negativity associated with the sex business, it’s not the sex (I’m willing to bet) but the alcohol that leads to trouble. Sex business is like drug business- it wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a clientele and middle/upper-class people will be surprised who make up the majority of consumers. (Hint- it’s not necessarily the poor w/out the money)

  23. I believe that one could find on-line, just about any publication or product that can be imagined, and have it delivered directly to one’s doorstep.

    So that does beg the question, as to why we would want to encourage those “seedy” elements, who make their living in the purveyance of such goods and services, to build their brick and mortar establishments here in our town, with all of the undesirable elements that they will certainly attract.

    On the other hand, why not put a strip club (or clubs) right in the middle of downtown. There are certainly plenty of young beautiful college co-eds who could benefit and supplement their educational funding by such gainful and profitable activities.

    There are also certainly plenty of interested young men, who would undoubtedly appreciate, and pay to see those young women in various stages of undress, not to mention whatever else might ensue.

    AND the City of San Marcos would benefit, as well as the community at large, from this creative supplement to our flagging sales tax revenues!

    (Point being; it is possible to support any ludicrous proposal, with a positive argument.)

  24. I believe B. Franklin may be on to something here. Let’s look at another positive argument for SOB’s. Many TSU college girls (according to a major study) work in the “pole dancing” bars in Austin and San Antonio. A young lady can make enough money working one or two nights a week to pay for a college education. The major problem these young ladies face is the long commute from San Marcos to their place of employment. The trip to work is not so bad but the trip home at one or two in the morning can be very dangerous. Not only are there a lot of drunks on I35 at that time of night but often the poor working young ladies have had to have a drink or two with customers to keep the bar’s management happy and increase their income. The argument for late hours bars in San Marcos was that it would keep a lot of college kids off I35 late at night and prevent DWI accidents. I think we can employ the same argument with the SOB topic. We should look at encouraging “pole dancing” establishments in San Marcos so our college girls can work locally and be safer. Remember, if it saves just one child.

    In pursuit of more cooperation between the University and the City, TSU could offer additional dance classes in exotic performances. We might even consider a new degree granting program in “pole dancing”. I am pretty sure we already have a major in aerobics. Can you imagine how much demand there would be in the private sector for a young lady with a degree in “pole dancing” with a minor in physics? The possibilities for such a person are endless.

    This may require a few economic development grants from the City of San Marcos. We need to encourage quality ti**y bars. I think an offer of free land and at least a million dollars in rebates on the establishments mixed beverage receipts would go a long ways towards getting this program up and running. We probably need another city employee devoted to encouraging and organizing this program. We could call the program “Ti**ys For The Town” and the new director could be the Stimulus Coordinator (pun intended).

    I would like it to be know that I am the first applicant for the new position. I will insist on being paid at least as much as the average city cop or fireman. I have little experience in this area and no formal education in the field but I think I can learn quickly and I am a people person.


  25. You jest, but pole dancing classes are already being offered at several colleges and universities around the country, and many health clubs offer classes in pole dancing as a form of exercise. Apparently, it’s quite good for the abs and thighs……

  26. Wasn’t there a strip club out Hunter Road at one point (20 years ago or so)? I seem to remember friends who are long-time residents talking about it. Apparently, the girls *couldn’t* make the kind of money here that they could in Austin, so they all (at least all of the pretty ones) chose to commute anyway. This left a less-than-ideal range of entertainers at the local club. 40 year-old strippers, anyone?

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  28. City Council meets on Tuesday. Show up if you want to voice your opinion in person. I’ve sent emails to our leaders, and received direct replies from 3 of them, too.

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