The 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.
By ANDY SEVILLA
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.)Email | Print