If someone wanted to open a strip club on Madison Street the village would be hard pressed to find a way to stop it. That’s the opinion anyway of Commissioner Mike Curry, a lawyer and former chairman of the zoning board.
“Right now they could open up an adult use on Madison and there would be no legal way for the village to prevent that,” Curry said.
That’s because the Forest Park zoning code does not contain any provisions relating to “adult uses” such as strip clubs, adult movie theaters and other risqué establishments.
The village is currently working on amending the zoning code to regulate adult uses but the subject is not expected to come up before the ZBA and village council for a couple months, according to Village Administrator Michael Sturino.
“It’s a pretty complex question because of the large constitutional issues involved,” Sturino said.
The village appears to be leaning toward an approach that would allow strip clubs or other adult themed businesses only in the area along Industrial Drive, an area currently zoned for industrial use. The absence of any regulations in Forest Park was something of a stumping point for Curry when he chaired the zoning board, but until winning a seat on the council he was unable to force any action.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that communities can regulate such establishments, but not put an outright ban on them. Regulations that have been upheld by the high court usually involve limiting where adult use establishments can be located. Under Supreme Court precedent, communities can prohibit strip clubs and the like from locating within 1,000 feet of schools and churches, or from being within a certain distance of each other.
Local government may also relegate such establishments to a particular location within the municipality. That is the approach Forest Park seems likely to adopt.
Village officials said they know of no proposals to open a strip club or any similar establishment in Forest Park, but they want to have something through which to regulate such uses just in case.
“It’s preemptive,” ZBA member Richard Scafidi said.
Scafidi favors only allowing such establishments in the area along Industrial Drive.
Approximately 10 years ago the village council voted to deny a business license to Rich Cassiani who wanted to open a tattoo parlor on Madison Street. Cassiani took the village to court claiming it was unconstitutional to deny his request, and the village ended up paying him $5,000 as a settlement, though no tattoo parlor was ever opened.
Theoretically, the same thing could happen if someone proposed opening a strip club, according to Curry. Although the prospect of a strip club seems unlikely given that no applicants have come forward, the village is left in a vulnerable legal position until it amends its zoning ordinance.
Although the zoning code lists only certain permitted uses for the downtown business district-and strip clubs and adult movie theaters are not on the list-Curry said the village would not win a legal challenge to denying such a business.
“I believe that the owner of a proposed strip club would prevail in a court of law at the present time based on our present law,” Curry said. “It would be very difficult for the village to put forth an argument that would prevail in court.”