Sexually oriented businesses still a hot topic with commissioners

"Whether it be in San Antonio or Comal County, we all deal with the same issues," San Antonio District 10 Councilman Christopher Haas lamented Thursday morning before Comal County officials concerning the impact adult book, video stores and strip clubs have on any neighborhood.

The Comal County Commissioners have been trying to come to some kind of agreement involving such stores right here in this county, however the timing has been somewhat out of reach.

The entire situation became a hot topic in 2002 when an adult book store opened its doors. Comal County officials sought to close the business, but the owner filed a federal lawsuit against Comal County District Attorney Dib Waldrip, County Judge Danny Scheel and county engineer Tom Hornseth for what they claim was a "violation of the First Amendment freedom of speech rights by seeking to prohibit sexually oriented businesses (SOB) instead of regulating them."

"What Comal County is attempting to do is constitutionally regulate certain aspects of a person's freedom of expression," Waldrip said.

Currently the county is looking at taking a better approach at such businesses including local dance clubs, which feature exotic dancing.

Perhaps the strongest testimony came from local Resource Council Director in New Braunfels, Suzie Dionne, who told commissioners that studies were done in 1970 to try to determine the effects of pornography and the sexually oriented businesses that promote it can have on communities.

"There's plenty of information out there that points to the need to be stringent in protecting the community," Dionne stressed.

The issue is very complex according to County Judge Scheel.

"It's not our intention to preclude people from exercising their constitutional rights to self-expression, but what we are trying to control are their negative impacts," Scheel said.

Scheel went on to say that the county would not try to prohibit SOB's and that the county would be in violation of constitutional law if it did, which is why Scheel emphasized that the county control the impact of SOB's in an effort to reduce their negative secondary effects.

At this point, the county still wants extra time to chart its next move, and that probably won't be for some time.

Scheel sees this issue as a tough one.

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