Described as a hub for crime, drugs, disease and even poverty, the village took a step toward regulating strip clubs and other sexually explicit businesses when the zoning board of appeals voted to consign these venues to two tracts of land on the south side of town.
But the ZBA’s unanimous recommendation Monday comes on the heels of an application submitted earlier this month to open a strip club on Industrial Drive. It’s not yet clear how Forest Park’s efforts to regulate this taboo industry will be tested by the pending application, but the stringent language in the proposed regulations is in keeping with Mayor Anthony Calderone’s earlier sentiment that any such venue would be an unwelcome addition to the village.
The proposed regulations attempt to concentrate the location of adult-themed venues rather than disperse them. Attorneys and planning consultants for the village argued at Monday’s ZBA hearing that this approach suits the village as the best way to control the ancillary ills that come with the porn industry. Claims that sexually transmitted diseases, drug use and reduced property values would follow were substantiated by thousands of pages of case law and real-world studies from other cities across the country.
“The general welfare, health, morals and safety of the citizens of the village will be promoted by the enactment of this ordinance,” the proposal reads, in part.
The village council is expected to vote on the ZBA’s recommendation and licensing guidelines at its Nov. 26 meeting.
Though village officials are confident a state law requiring a one-mile setback between sexually explicit businesses and other “protected” uses such as schools, churches and parks precludes the opening of a strip club, adult bookstore or similar business here, local regulations are needed, they said. The village currently has no regulations for this industry of its own, which leaves the entire community vulnerable to a sexually explicit venue should the state law be overturned.
“There’s not a single property in Forest Park that would qualify under that one-mile rule,” Village Administrator Mike Sturino said.
Adult businesses are protected under the first amendment, prohibiting communities from establishing an outright ban.
Earlier this month the village received an application to open a strip club along Industrial Drive. According to the proposed zoning, nude dancing would be permitted along Industrial Drive but not at the junction with Desplaines Avenue. The applicant is taking aim at one of two parcels at this intersection, Sturino said.
He declined to comment on how the pending application may be impacted by the pending regulations.
According to the proposed regulations, sexually explicit businesses would also be allowed to open on the southwest corner of the I-2 Industrial District that is home to the sprawling U.S. Postal Service facility just south of the Forest Park Mall. Under the proposed regulations, dancers would not be allowed to appear completely nude, nor would they be able to collect tips from customers.