Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Strategy Works Elsewhere; County Hires Expert to Write Regulations on Adult Entertainment Establishments

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Strategy Works Elsewhere; County Hires Expert to Write Regulations on Adult Entertainment Establishments

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

GREEN COVE SPRINGS | A legal expert hired to keep the Clay County Commission out of court as its members look to regulate adult entertainment establishments has a reputation statewide for writing tough ordinances designed to withstand constitutional challenges.

Michael Kahn, a Melbourne attorney recognized as an expert in constitutional law and adult entertainment regulations, is recommending a legal strategy already enacted by several communities statewide. If adopted by Clay commissioners, Kahn's three-ordinance package could result in changes to adult entertainment ordinances in the county's incorporated municipalities: Orange Park, Green Cove Springs and Keystone Heights.

Now, there are no adult businesses anywhere in Clay County. The county's existing ordinance bans them in unincorporated areas. Meanwhile, Orange Park, Green Cove Springs and Keystone Heights have separate but similar bans.

Clay's current ordinance is unconstitutional because it is a ban. As such, the county is vulnerable to a costly court challenge that it likely would lose, according to County Attorney Mark Scruby.

Duval County has 25 licensed adult entertainment establishments, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office data show.

Some Clay elected officials, community leaders and residents have said they don't want adult businesses crossing the county line from Duval or new ones setting up shop.

Kahn said his ordinance package would restrict and heavily regulate adult businesses that would operate in Clay's unincorporated areas. Each ordinance, he said, so far hasn't been overturned or even challenged in court.

The package would include:

- A regulatory ordinance of about 80 pages.

- A public nudity ordinance, originated in St. Johns County.

- A location ordinance specifying sites where adult businesses would be allowed to operate.

"If one ordinance is attacked, the other two still move along," Kahn said of the legal strategy

Adult entertainment establishments are protected free speech under the First Amendment.

"We are not regulating speech, we are regulating the secondary effects of speech," said Kahn, explaining the Constitution allows regulation of adverse effects such as those impacting health, property and crime.

Kahn has written adult entertainment ordinances for Brevard County, St. Augustine, Melbourne, Panama City Beach, Pensacola, Palm Bay, Palm Shores, Pembroke Park and Malabar.

Officials in several of those communities said no adult entertainment businesses have tried to open there since the ordinances were enacted. The ordinances are a deterrent, officials said, but there is no way to determine unequivocally if the measures were the primary deciding factor.

St. Augustine doesn't have any adult entertainment businesses, and it didn't back in 2007 when it enacted Kahn's ordinance, said City Attorney Ron Brown. …

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