Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Under the first amendment, the town of Franklin, or any government, can’t restrict any specific type of business from operating. When developing the town’s code of ordinance, previous town leadership restricted the location of Sexual Oriented Businesses to only being able to be located within an Industrial District, of which Franklin has two, and pasted on a myriad of requirements that essentially prevented such a business from operating anywhere inside the city of Franklin other than a sliver of property on Depot Street.

While reviewing the town’s ordinances, Town Attorney John Henning Jr. informed the town board that the restrictions placed on Sexual Orientated Businesses could potentially set the town of Franklin up for a lawsuit as the strict requirements borderline encroach on the first amendment rights of someone to own and operate such a business.

Current regulations 

Sexual Oriented Business are currently only allowed with the Industrial Zoned areas of Macon County. Other types of types of businesses permitted within Industrial zones include government facilities, landfills, manufacturing facilities, public utility operations, and recycling and garbage disposal centers.

A Sexual Oriented Business includes an adult arcade or peep show, adult bookstore of video store, adult cabaret such as a nightclub, bar or restaurant that regularly features exhibits or displays of a person who appears nude or semi-nude, an adult motel, an adult motion picture theater or an adult theater or concert hall.

Franklin’s current regulation states that no more than one Sexual Oriented Business can be located within any 1,000 foot radius, as determined by a straight line.

Sexual Oriented Business are also not permitted within 1,000 foot radius of any place of worship, school, day-care, residential zoning district, or residential properties.

Attorney recommendation 

The Town of Franklin directed the Franklin Planning Board to review the ordinance and provide a recommendation to the town board. Henning proposed draft changes to the Planning Board on Monday, which included changing the ordinance from 1,000 foot buffer around any place of worship, school, day-care, residential zoning district, or residential properties, to 250 feet.

According to Town Planner Justin Setser, Henning’s recommendation was made based on existing laws and policies as well as his recommendation that would protect the town of any future lawsuits.

Setser informed the planning board that no such businesses had applied to operate in the town and the measure was simply preventative.

Planning Board recommendation 

Led by planning board member Janet Green, the planning board voted to recommend the town board change the ordinance to include a buffer of 500 away from any place of worship, school, day-care, residential zoning district, or residential properties.

Green noted that she would feel more comfortable with a more significant buffer than the 250 feet proposed by the town attorney.

Members of the planning board argued that the 500 feet still opened up more possible locations for such a business, while still providing a significant buffer. Planning board members noted that without an explanation from Henning on why he proposed 250 feet rather than 500 feet, they unanimously voted for the 500 foot buffer.

Next Step 

The planning board’s vote Monday night was to simply recommend the change to the town of Franklin. Ultimately, the change of the ordinance would be made by the Franklin Town Council. Members of the planning board noted that rather than meeting again next week, they would rather place the burden on Henning to explain his reasoning to the Town Council, who could choose to follow the town attorney’s recommendation or follow the planning board’s.

A public hearing is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Monday, July 3, at Town Hall.