Oxford passes adult entertainment zoning

Oxford StockBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – The Board of Aldermen passed zoning restrictions Tuesday that would limit adult entertainment businesses to two small areas of the compactly developed town.

The ordinance change was aimed at correcting the inadvertent elimination of adult entertainment restrictions several years ago when the land usage ordinance was revised. Courts have consistently held that simply banning such businesses violates the speech rights secured by the First Amendment.

The new ordinance language limits adult entertainment businesses to a small industrial zone near the west end of University-Oxford Airport and a commercial zone along West Jackson Avenue that includes Walmart. Without such zones, anyone opening a sexually oriented business could have demanded to put it anywhere in the city.

“There really are no acceptable locations,” said City Planner Tim Akers.

City Attorney Pope Mallette agreed, noting that any location more than the required 1,000 feet from a single-family residential zone, school, day care center, park or regular place of worship was on a major thoroughfare where any sexually oriented businesses would be objectionably visible.

“There is no perfect place,” Mallette said. “There will be children and families passing by any place, including Walmart, which everyone in our city goes to.”

Mayor Pat Patterson strove to clarify that city officials were not inviting entrepreneurs to open strip clubs or similar entertainment venues in Oxford – merely limiting them to specific areas if they decided to open.

“I want you to know we aren’t deaf, nor are we unresponsive,” he told residents who’d protested the proposal at a public hearing in December. “We feel like we have (a reasonable course of action). We feel like we’re so much more defensible if we have two locations.”

Even the ordinance itself addresses the conflict.

“It is not the intent of the planning office and Planning Commission, and the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen of Oxford, Mississippi, to condone or legitimize the distribution of obscene materials, and such governing body recognizes that state and federal law prohibits the distribution of obscene materials and expects and encourages state enforcement officials to enforce state and federal obscenity statutes against any such illegal activities in the city of Oxford.”

Aldermen also extended an existing temporary moratorium on sexually oriented businesses until the ordinance goes into effect.

errol.castens@journalinc.com