Liberty Township is being proactive in making it difficult for any strip clubs that might want to set up shop within its boundaries.
The township zoning committee recommended to the township board of trustees Monday, July 1, that it craft resolutions to place restrictions on potential sexually oriented businesses, which include strip clubs and adult bookstores.
"In addition to zoning codes, the law allows townships to regulate a lot of things, such as licensing through resolutions," said township Zoning Inspector Holly Foust.
At its June 25 meeting, the zoning committee began putting the final touches on a revamped code book. One of those final pieces includes the section that regulates the zoning of sexually oriented businesses.
An addition to the code would limit sexually oriented businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of property zoned for residential, parks, churches, libraries and schools.
Adult stores and clubs are protected by the First Amendment, so it's illegal for zoning codes to discriminate against them and make it impossible to operate. But that doesn't stop many municipalities from crafting rules that would make sexually oriented businesses want to look elsewhere.
Foust said land that's zoned for such businesses "doesn't have to be available or desirable."
There are about a dozen areas in the township that are zoned to allow for sexually oriented businesses, including off U.S. Route 23 along the northern-most boundary of the township, a portion of the Del-Co Water site, and an area just north of Golf Village North.
Township Administrator Dave Anderson told trustees they could expect to start seeing drafts of possible resolutions relating to sexually oriented businesses by the end of July. Trustee Mary Carducci was absent from the meeting.
Although there are no businesses that have shown interest in the township, Anderson said he'd like to move quickly on the resolutions and be safe rather than sorry, as some other nearby municipalities have been.
In 2006, Orange Township faced the possibility that an adult bookstore would take over a building that was unavailable at the time the zoning codes were created for sexually oriented businesses. The store was never built, but Orange Township settled an out-of-court lawsuit for denying zoning. A similar establishment now stands just outside the township's borders on Polaris Parkway.
Recently, Orange Township officials raised concerns with an adult-oriented hotel that wanted to open within its boundaries. Although the township would legally have to allow the business to open, development on the project has been held up by a dispute between the landowner and the developer.
The Liberty Township zoning addition is just a small part of a complete revamp of the township zoning codes, which last were updated in 2004. Once committee members approve the change in the sexually oriented businesses section at their July 17 meeting, a draft of the code book will be sent to the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office for review.
If the office finds that all the updated codes are legal and necessary, a public hearing will be held prior to a vote by township trustees.
One of the most significant changes that resulted from the years-long process is the creation of two new zoning districts for conservation areas, Foust said.
A goal of the committee when making the changes was to eliminate zoning jargon and streamline convoluted codes.
"The new book will be more user-friendly," Foust said. "It will be much easier to understand."