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

January 8th, 2010
San Marcos ponders how far — and where — to go with sex business regs

Under a propopsed rewrite of San Marcos ordinances, strip clubs, adult video stores and other adult businesses would have to locate in industrial zones and outside buffers around Interstate 35, churches, schools, residences and other designated buildings. Download the full map here.

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Fearing an influx of strip clubs and topless joints when bar hours were extended to 2 a.m., the San Marcos City Council in May slapped a moratorium on new sexually oriented businesses and ordered a review of city ordinances that regulate them.

When finally a draft overhaul of pertinent municipal law landed on the agenda at their regular meeting on Tuesday, city council members one after another proffered their reasons for concern before voting unanimously to table the proposal. The delay will require council members to extend for a second time what originally was a six month moratorium on adult businesses.

“We changed our market when we changed our bar hours. … Legally we can’t outlaw [adult oriented businesses] but we we’re doing everything we can to protect our city,” Mayor Susan Narvaiz said.

The draft confines adult businesses to areas zoned for light or heavy industrial use and that lie outside of a 1,000 foot buffer along Interstate 35 and a 1,500 foot buffer around churches, schools, parks, residences, bars, the Central Business District or another adult business.

That eliminates 95.6 percent of San Marcos’ land area, leaving a handful of properties where adult businesses could locate that fall, as it happens, near the planned site of Hays County’s government center on Stagecoach Trail; behind the Thermon Manufacturing near the HEB distribution center; along Clovis Barker Drive where a division of Philips Electronics operates a manufacturing plant; and areas adjoining the Heldenfels Enterprises Inc. concrete plant in far south San Marcos and the C-Fan manufacturing plant in far north San Marcos.

Only 4.6 percent of the city would be appropriately zoned under the draft ordinance, Planning Director Matthew Lewis said, compared to 26 percent in current law absent the moratorium.

Narvaiz seemed alarmed that the rewritten ordinance, in practice, would confine adult businesses near some of the city’s largest employers and within sight of major gateways.

The Wonder World Drive railroad overpass might offer drivers a panoramic view of a patch where an adult business could legally set up shop within walking distance from property where the county is about to start building its $74 million campus. The Clovis Barker Drive locations, meanwhile, sit around the corner from the Hays Juvenile Detention Center and the Hays County Civic Center.

“If you publish this map to people who are in the surrounding areas, they may have something to say,” Narvaiz said. The mayor said she also wants to include that nearby property owners be notified of an adult business owner’s application for licensing and a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission built into the process.

In addition to zoning restrictions, adult business operators would have to be licensed by the San Marcos police chief who could reject applicants with criminal histories and suspend or revoke licenses for infractions that range from having intoxicated employees to allowing drug use or prostitution on premises. Each employee would also have to receive a permit from the city.

The ordinance also outlines operation standards for adult businesses with further restrictions that, for instance, prohibit performers from being closer than three feet of a customer, a provision that would outlaw lap dances and other staples of establishments that peddle those wares. Cabaret performers cannot show the genitals or public hair; adult motels can’t offer an hourly rate; and sofas and beds are banned in “sexual encounter centers” unless they’re in a “reception area opened to the public.”

The 31-page code’s explicit definitions and restrictions spawn more than a few hypotheticals of a nature not normally fodder for city council deliberation.

Council member John Thomaides asked, “If someone is at an establishment and hands over a dollar bill, they have violated the law of this city. Is that correct?”

“The person offering the dollar bill wouldn’t be in violation. The performer being within three feet of the customer at the point they took the dollar bill would be violation of this ordinance as it is drafted,” City Attorney Michael Cosentino said.

Council member Kim Porterfield wonder aloud whether the ordinance’s intent was to make conditions so “onerous and stringent” for adult businesses to open in San Marcos that they choose to go elsewhere.

“Are you confident that this will discourage or make it likely less profitable for adult oriented businesses to come to San Marcos even though you can’t eliminate them? … They’re going to go to San Antonio or austin to open a strip club instead of coming to San Marcos?” Porterfield asked.

“Our idea is to make it where we regulate the secondary effects more stringently,” Lewis said.

Texas law allows municipalities to write laws intended to regulate adult businesses insomuch as they are “detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare by contributing to the decline of residential and business neighborhoods and the growth of criminal activity.”

San Marcos’ proposed ordinances begins with a length definition of adult businesses which encompasses adult arcades, bookstores, cabarets, escort agencies, massage parlors, adult motels or theaters, novelty stores, adult service establishments, adult video stores, sex parlors, sexual encounter centers or nude modeling studios.


» Proposed Adult Oriented Business ordinance [pdf]

» Map of zones where adult businesses could locate [pdf]

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8 thoughts on “San Marcos ponders how far — and where — to go with sex business regs

  1. If they want to try and move to our fair city they will sue and we will have more lawsuits on our hands. We have spent thousands paying legal fees arguing about what is art, now we will pay thousands more arguing about “speech”.

  2. I say bring it! If the establishment has enough money to pay an attorney to sue the city then bring it! I am sure this kind of establishment would bring scandalous stories to be shared!

  3. I support the operation of sexually-oriented businesses in San Marcos. I think they should be zoned and taxed appropriately. They shouldn’t be made to feel unwelcome. Confine them to industrial zones where they can operate during nighttime hours when the area is otherwise deserted.

    Let’s face it, the city’s one-time cash cow, the outlet malls, is not providing the sales tax benefits it once did due to competition from outlets closer to Mexico and further north. Adult-oriented businesses could not only bring in new revenue but the city could also imposed a “sin tax” on them for extra revenue if needed.

    Then there are the employment benefits to consider. Such businesses typically employee females aged 18-25. With a university the size of Texas State, 29000, and a female student population of 54%, we are talking about a large employment pool that would otherwise have little opportunities in a town this small. Why should a female student work for minimum wage on campus when she could earn hundreds of dollars a night?

    It is a win-win situation if handled correctly.

  4. Seriously what is the council trying to protect the city from? Certainly not drunk college students and other adults driving back from Austin and SA after going adult clubs in those cities. Wasn’t curbing students going to other cities for the later drinking hours and driving back drunk part of the rationale for extending bar hours? There is no reputable study linking adult entertainment venues to increased crime or other problems not related to other establishments that serve alcohol, except a few linking an increase in muggings and car break ins when these establishments are relegated to the outskirts and bad parts of town.

  5. I can’t imagine that the average property owning, tax paying, voting, homeowner would be happy having this type of business operating in his neighborhood regardless of how much sales tax might be raised.

  6. Charlie there’s a difference beteween reasonable zoning and zoning a type of business out of town completely because it offends the mayor’s sensibilities. Austin, SA, even Round Rock seem to have figured this out.

  7. I’m sorry if I don’t agree with some of you who feel its okay to bring this kind of business to this area. I personally moved here so I can raise my children away from cities that have these businesses. I came from a big city and decided my husband was right by moving to a small town that emphasizes on education rather than sale what you got. It’s low, it’s degrading, and it’s stupid to bring a place like this here. This is a family town. Don’t you care about what goes on in it? Don’t you care about the amount of children we have that can fall victim to this? Already we have to worry about sex slaves in big cities, don’t you think you’ll bring those kinds of people here to our small town that could easily prey on our young adults and children? Instead of thinking what is in your pants, think with your head. Think about a town our size and the amount of problems it could cause our community. Think about our family and children for heaven’s sake think about it.

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