WASHINGTON – Montgomery County officials said they expect to take action “relatively soon” against an adult video store in Silver Spring, after a federal judge ruled a county zoning law restricting such businesses is constitutional.
U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow ruled in March that the law, which prohibits adult businesses from operating within 750 feet of any residential area, schools, libraries, churches, playgrounds or other community facilities, “is not unconstitutionally vague . . . and does not violate equal protection.”
The owner of Bigg Wolf Discount Video Movie Sales Inc. claimed in a suit against the county that the May 2000 zoning ordinance violated his First Amendment rights by prohibiting him from operating his adult business in certain areas of the county.
The store, in the 9400 block of Georgia Avenue, is adjacent to a residential neighborhood.
Richard Biggs, the owner of the store, has until April 28 to appeal. But he could not be reached for comment and his attorney, Jonathan Katz, refused to comment on the case or on what action Biggs might take.
Associate County Attorney Clifford Royalty said the county would fight if Biggs appeals Chasanow’s ruling, and that it would take action against the store if the ruling stands and the store does not reduce the volume of adult material it carries.
“We don’t know yet what enforcement action we will take, but it will be done relatively soon,” Royalty said.
Montgomery County adopted the restrictive zoning law in May 2000, claiming that an adult bookstore in a residential area has “adverse effects” on the community.
“The county had a problem with one or more adult businesses operating near residential properties and businesses frequented by families and children,” Royalty said.
He said the county based its decision on studies that were done around the country that showed the negative effects that adult businesses have on communities.
At the time, he said, there were about 10 businesses in the county that met the definition of adult business — “an establishment that sells, rents, exhibits, or displays adult entertainment materials using a floor area that is more than 10 percent of the total area” of the store.
All those stores were notified at the time that they were in violation of the law, Royalty said. But he said there is no way of knowing exactly how many adult bookstores are still operating in the county.
“Businesses expand all the time,” he said. “We would have to go out there and do some real investigating and some calling around.”
Court documents said sexually explicit merchandise make up more than 50 percent of the floor area at Bigg Wolf.
Royalty said the store — which replaced another adult bookstore at the same location in 1998 — could continue to operate if it relocated or reduced the amount of adult material to be in compliance with the law. But Biggs’ suit said there is no place for him to move.