The window at The Talk of the Town Bookstore in San Marcos. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
The San Marcos City Council unanimously extended a prohibition against sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) this week while the city staff and council struggle to decide how such businesses should be zoned.
The extension, passed on emergency, keeps the moratorium in effect until April 30. The city’s initial six-month moratorium passed on May 11, 2009, just as the city was about to begin extending bar hours until 2 a.m.
The moratorium was set to expire at the end of this month, which would have allowed SOBs to set up shop in areas where they’re not prohibited by ordinance.
In their first meeting of the year, councilmembers directed staff to draft an ordinance regulating SOBs even further than the staff originally proposed. San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz wanted an avenue for public hearings at the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission level, as well as advanced notification to surrounding neighbors and business of SOBs seeking to plant roots.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that municipal governments have the authority to regulate SOBs in efforts to minimize secondary effects, such as crime and property devaluation. In doing so, cities can effectively zone certain parts or districts within their jurisdictions for SOBs, though they cannot disallow SOBs outright, which would constitute an infringement on free speech.
In a 1976 decision, Young v. American Mini Theathres, the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to uphold a Detroit ordinance requiring disbursement of SOBs throughout the city. Justice John Paul Stevens said in his opinion that municipalities have the right to address secondary impacts on their jurisdictions, through zoning laws, so long as the First Amendment is protected.
“… The First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content,” Stevens wrote. “…To permit the continued building of our politics and culture, and to assure self-fulfillment for each individual, our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship.”
City staff has presented council with an ordinance determining heavy-industrial and light-industrial zones as appropriate grounds for SOBs. The allowable zones under the proposal amount to about 834 acres, or 4.4 percent of the city’s land area. However, the allowable areas also include some of San Marcos’ biggest employers. In addition, those parts of the city are in line for about $175 million in public improvements.
The proposed ordinance also would prohibit exposure of genital or private areas while also prohibiting entertainers 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/managers of adult cabarets would be required to keep lists of all employees, whether on or off-duty.
In other council business, several appointments were made to city commissions and boards. Newly elected Councilmember Ryan Thomason was appointed to the Capital Area Housing Commission. Arthur Taylor was appointed to the Ethics Review Commission. Christie Neumann was appointed to the Main Street Advisory Board. Pat Murdock and Barry Davis were appointed to the Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Commission.
The hot oil and shaving creme wrestling show packed the dance floor Wednesday night at Nephew’s. Photos by Andy Sevilla.