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College Station Council to discuss zoning plan for adult establishments

By SOMMER HAMILTON

Eagle Staff Writer

Sexually oriented businesses would be allowed in just over 5 percent of College Station under a proposed ordinance change that would draw longtime strip club Silk Stocking back into the map of acceptable locations.

The City Council will review the plan Thursday, when it also will hold a public hearing to discuss lowering the city’s tax rate from 46.53 cents per $100 valuation to 46.40 cents or less. That would translate to a small decrease for taxpayers — the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $464 in city taxes per year instead of $465.30.

The proposed changes to the city’s year-old Unified Development Ordinance could end a lawsuit filed in June by Silk Stocking, which claims the ordinance puts illegal restrictions on the business. But the council isn’t expected to consider approving the changes until a public hearing is held at its regular Sept. 23 meeting.

Under the June 2003 Unified Development Ordinance — a consolidation and update of numerous past city regulations — adult-oriented businesses are not allowed within 500 feet of a residential district and 1,000 feet of a church, school, university or playground.

Revisions to the development ordinance drafted this year by city developers and planners would allow adult businesses 400 feet from residential areas. It also would strike hospitals, churches and libraries from the list of protected areas, meaning sexually oriented businesses no longer would have to be 1,000 feet from such buildings.

Assistant City Manager Glenn Brown said the current codes allow adult businesses in less than 1 percent of the city — a mistake, he said, because the courts consider 5 percent to be the legal minimum. The mistake happened when city developers laid out the map of possible locations last year, Brown said.

The revisions would open up more than 5 percent of the city for adult businesses, he said.

“We honestly thought we had cleared five percent of the city until it was challenged [by Silk Stocking] this year,” Brown said. “If you’re going to regulate and prohibit [sexually oriented businesses], the Supreme Court says you have to still have room in your city for them. These are freedom of expression issues.”

The strip club was told in June 2003 it would have one year to comply with the new provisions in the Unified Development Ordinance. To comply, it would have to either stop operating as a sexually oriented business or move to another area of town.

The proposed changes would include the area around Silk Stocking just north of Earl Rudder Freeway South as a special district in which adult businesses are allowed. City Attorney Harvey Cargill said that if the council approves the changes this month, it could resolve the lawsuit.

Council members could approve the city’s $177 million budget and tax rate for fiscal 2005 during their regular session Thursday, though they have until the end of the month to make changes and approve the plan before it becomes official.

Some council members said Wednesday that public safety funding is high on a list of items they want to revisit before approving the budget. Such items include a request from the fire department for more personnel to man a dedicated ladder crew and a push to help the police department fund school resource officers for the College Station school district.

The approved property tax rate will affect how much extra funding, if any, is available in the budget to fulfill such requests.

The council could adopt a tax rate Thursday as low as 45.05 cents per $100 valuation, which, because of increased property values across the city, would generate the same amount of tax revenue as the 2004 rate of 46.53 cents. Assessed property value across the city rose 8.6 percent for 2004, with $154 million in new property added and $107 million in increased value, officials have said.

But setting the tax at the lowest rate would force the city to trim $370,000 from its 2005 budget.

The College Station City Council meets the second Thursday of every month at 2 and 7 p.m. and the fourth Thursday of every month at 3 and 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1101 Texas Ave. Evening meetings are broadcast live on Channel 19.

• Sommer Hamilton’s e-mail address is shamilton@theeagle.com.

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