Adult businesses will have tough time in Rowan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

Would anyone pay a $25,000 application fee to open an adult business in Rowan County?

Would it be legal?

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners is searching for answers and ways to make it as difficult as legally possible for adult businesses to locate in the county.

“I want to make it as difficult as we can,” said Chairman Arnold Chamberlain during a discussion Thursday evening, adding, “I make no apologies.”

“Can we price them out of the neighborhood?” asked Commissioner Tina Hall. “It’s a risky business. Can we charge a $25,000 fee?”

“No,” said County Attorney Jay Dees, explaining the fee has to cover the county’s cost for investigation and enforcement.

Hall didn’t back away, suggesting that the county “push the envelope” and see if potential operators of adult businesses will challenge it.

“We do not want to be the backyard for surrounding counties,” added Commissioner Jon Barber, supporting efforts to make the ordinance as tough as possible.

County Planner Shane Stewart led the board through several pages of revised and proposed text — a mesh of recommendations from the Planning Board, the planning staff and Commissioner Jim Sides, who offered several suggestions to close potential loopholes.

The county began looking at revising the adult establishment ordinance after increased inquiries from individuals looking for sites.

Responding to a question, Stewart said the county currently has three businesses that planners believe fall under the definition of adult businesses.

Stewart said the new ordinance wouldn’t affect those businesses unless they applied for a permit to expand.

Commissioners agreed to send the proposed ordinance back to the planning staff for revision, including research by Dees on ways to add fees.

The board did agree with the planning staff to stick with the county’s current requirement that an adult business must be at least one-quarter mile from a home, church, park, day care or other adult business.

The Planning Board had recommended expanding the distance to one-half mile.

Sides and Stewart said a one-half mile requirement would make it virtually impossible to locate an adult business anywhere in the county’s jurisdiction — a violation of federal law.

During a public hearing, two speakers supported the board’s efforts to thwart adult businesses.

“They are beyond not wanted,” said Rob Whedbee of Salisbury. “The majority of the public will stand behind you. These businesses will destroy the fabric of our county.”

Jeff Morris, a local attorney, advised the board to explore establishing an annual fee to cover the cost of monitoring such establishments.

Much of the proposed ordinance is descriptive terms of various sex acts and activities.

“I had to use the dictionary more than I have in a long time,” Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell said.

Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or