SOBs Contend Zoning Ordinances Put 1st Amendment Rights In Compromising Position

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 2:34 am
Land Use Law Report, Volume 46, Number 2

A federal court permitted adult businesses in Charlotte, NC to proceed on claims that the City’s Adult Zoning Ordinance (AZO) and Sexually Oriented Business Ordinance (SOBO) violate the First Amendment. The court denied the city’s motion for summary judgment regarding several facets of free speech claims that local adult businesses made. Instead, the court ruled that a jury should decide whether the city ordinances unconstitutionally eliminate alternative avenues of communication or constitute impermissible prior restraints.

Facts: In 1994, the Charlotte City Council (Council) enacted the AZO, a law dictating the minimum distances that individual adult businesses must be from one another and from “protected uses” such as residential districts and playgrounds. The City of Charlotte subsequently amended the AZO, in part to provide guidelines for zoning variances. Five years later, the city adopted the SOBO, which required sexually oriented businesses to obtain a license, prevented the employment of minors and stipulated other business-specific regulations. Both ordinances purported to protect the safety and integrity of the community and to prevent the potential deleterious effects of adult businesses, such as increased crime rates and lowered property values.

The AZO’s “amortization” provision required adult businesses to relocate to a conforming location by January 18, 2002. Prior to this deadline, three adult bookstore owners and two live adult entertainment establishment owners (Plaintiffs) challenged AZ[..]