Residents told they can pressure adult businesses

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

If North Toledo residents want to stop the spread of adult entertainment in their neighborhoods, they’ll have to take the initiative themselves, a group of concerned citizens concluded last night.

“There aren’t any Pied Pipers anymore to take the rats out of your city,” said Lora White, who has lived in the neighborhood near Telegraph Avenue and Alexis Road for 30 years. “You’ve got to do it yourself.”

Ms. White and about 25 others gathered at a preschool near the North Towne Square shopping center to discuss the growth of adult entertainment venues in the area. Democratic Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz, who called the meeting, is running for election to the council seat he was appointed to in January. His opponent in the May 4 election is Republican Nick Wichowski, who lost a mayoral bid in 1997 to Carty Finkbeiner.

The Telegraph-Alexis area has nine adult establishments, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said, and District 6 has 13. They range from strip clubs and massage parlors to adult bookstores.

Neighbors said the numbers have risen sharply in the last three or four years.

The gathered citizens said the businesses cause a multitude of problems, from traffic concerns to moral issues.

“The parking lots are littered with beer cans, bottles, and broken glass, and the girls come outside in their skimpy clothes sometimes,” said Kim Iott, manager of Telegraph Road Central Travel, which is near a strip club.

Last night’s meeting was at My Little School, which is 524 feet from a strip club. City law prevents an adult business from being located within 500 feet of a school, church, or residential area.

When citizens and city leaders want to close an adult entertainment spot, they face dozens of legal barriers. U.S. courts have usually interpreted First Amendment freedoms to stop cities from shutting down stores purely because of the materials they sell.

“You can’t just zone somebody out of business,” senior city attorney John Madigan said.

As a result, cities have to use alternate methods – like the strict enforcement of building and health codes – to stop adult entertainment.

“When you can’t get to the source of the problem, you can get around it,” Mr. Madigan said. “There are other ways to shut down businesses you don’t like.”

He recommended that citizens become extra vigilant in filing complaints about adult businesses if they see any sort of violation, from litter in the area to beer drinking in a parking lot. If one location is the source of five to 10 complaints a week for a month or more, the city may have enough of a case to shut it down as a nuisance or as a threat to public safety.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he would ask police to monitor the area.