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Aldermen agree to restrictions on porn in Spencer

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SPENCER — Businesses with more than 10 percent of floor space devoted to selling pornography would have to locate in the town’s industrial district, Spencer aldermen agreed Tuesday.
Previously, the threshold was 50 percent.
Aldermen also want to limit the amount of sales that can come from pornography to 10 percent for businesses operating in the town’s commercial districts. Aldermen asked the Spencer Planning Board to come up with an amendment to that affect.
The ordinance passed Tuesday, called “ancillary adult establishment uses,” does not affect any existing business. A few convenience stores selling pornographic magazines and a flea market offering adult videos use less than 10 percent of floor space, aldermen said.
Previously, a business could sell pornography in 49 percent of the store and still operate downtown, Alderman Jeff Morris said.
“This is to prevent a problem before you have a gentlemen’s club opening in Park Plaza,” Morris said.
But the town’s existing ordinance, which highly regulates adult establishments including their proximity to churches, already prevents that from happening, Alderman Delaine Fowler said.
“Will this really help?” she said, adding that the current ordinance is “quite extensive.”
Fowler questioned the validity of studies cited in the new ordinance that say pornography causes crime, neighborhood blight, lower property values and the increased threat of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
At Fowler’s request, Police Chief Michael James reported that crime has not increased around Spencer businesses that sell porn.
Rather than choosing an arbitrary number like 10 percent, Fowler suggested the town set the threshold at 25 percent of floor space to match Rowan County’s ordinance. Fowler cast the lone dissenting vote against the new ordinance.
Land Management Director Dustin Wilson agreed 10 percent was a “fairly arbitrary number,” and Town Attorney Rivers Lawther said he couldn’t promise the ordinance would hold up in court.
Other than the percentage, the ordinance is based on those passed by other cities, including Concord, Greensboro and Charlotte, Wilson said.
Wilson said he also consulted with the UNC School of Government.
Pastor Richard Gross of Oakdale Baptist Church said he appreciates the town’s work to limit access to pornography, which he said ruins marriages and is too prevalent on the internet.
“We don’t need to have it where we can grab it locally, in stores,” he said. “I really appreciate the conclusions that you’re coming to in regards to adult establishments in our community.”
Gross was the only speaker at the public hearing.
The board will hold another public hearing on the upcoming amendment to limit pornography to 10 percent of gross sales.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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