Fairfield to ban sexual encounter businesses

7:00 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 Fairfield & Fairfield Twp
Nick Graham
West Chester Twp. was almost home to a swingers club, but trustees voted to ban sexual encounter businesses that offer live sex acts, which resulted in a lawsuit by the proposed operators. The city of Fairfield is looking to ban sexual encounter businesses in the city. NICK GRAHAM/FILE

On the heels of West Chester and Liberty townships and Monroe banning sexual encounter businesses, like swingers clubs, in their communities, the city of Fairfield aims to do the same.

The city’s push to ban the type of business began because of West Chester Twp.’s public dispute with a company wanting to open a swingers club near a Fairfield daycare that ended in a settled lawsuit and eventual ban of the business. In the months after, Liberty Twp. and Monroe also banned businesses that offer sexual encounters.

RELATED: Liberty Twp, West Chester Twp. bans sexual encounter businesses

Fairfield City Council and Planning Commission held a joint public hearing on Monday concerning the change in the city’s zoning code. It’s expected the city’s planning commission will make a recommendation for City Council at its meeting tonight.

Because of the issues in West Chester Twp., the city of Fairfield began looking at its zoning codes that allows sexually oriented business in only certain commercially zoned areas, which are mostly on Ohio 4 — the busiest thoroughfare in the city.

“We’re just tightening our zoning laws up to make sure those types of businesses don’t come to Fairfield,” said Mayor Steve Miller.

This could be a trend where more and more communities are looking to ban sexual encounter businesses, said Miami University Regionals political science professor John Forren. He said there’s not much support in most communities for having sexually oriented businesses nearby.

“It’s pretty common for policy ideas like this to spread from local jurisdiction to local jurisdiction. And this is a popular position for local officials to take,” he said.

RELATED: Monroe outlaws sex clubs

Monroe City Councilman Todd Hickman, whose council voted to ban sexual encounter businesses this past January, doesn’t see an issue with communities banning these types of business.

“I’m sure the residents of Fairfield are probably glad to see this (happen),” he said.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic said residents will always voice their opinions on what “certain expectations” they have of their community and its leaders.

“Any community will have certain types of businesses that their residents feel isn’t appropriate,” said Matacic, who had a number of informal conversations with residents when she was out in the community about this issue. “I had a few people bending my ear.”

Miller said this is not just a council push as “a majority of residents here really don’t want that type of business here in Fairfield. We will support the residents and their wishes.”

Fairfield first addressed the issue of sexually oriented businesses in 1996, which defined where these businesses can be located, said Fairfield Planning Manager Erin Donovan. In 2007, the Ohio Attorney General provided communities with “model ordinances” on regulating sexually oriented businesses and prohibiting criminal conduct within those businesses.

The city’s proposed legislation would prohibit any type of live sex act at a business. However, Donovan said the city cannot prohibit sexually oriented businesses, such as strip clubs or retail businesses that sells sexually oriented material.

“Sexually oriented businesses have a constitutional right under the First Amendment to operate in the city, but there has been case law that says those live sex act businesses, like swingers clubs, do not offer that same freedom so the city can prohibit them in our jurisdiction,” she said.

But not all Butler County communities have intentions to ban sexual encounter businesses.

In 2007, Middletown enacted a number of measures around sexually oriented businesses. City Manager Doug Adkins told the Journal-News in 2015 that “no changes are contemplated at this time” as that zoning regulation “has worked well for the city.” On Tuesday, he maintained that no changes are being contemplated with the city’s zoning laws and that there had been no issues with such businesses in Middletown.

These types of businesses are permitted in Middletown so long as they are not within 500 feet of a residential property, 1,000 feet of a church, school, hospital, library, public playground or public park. Club SinDay in Middletown has operated in the city on Cincinnati-Dayton Road for the better part of a decade.

After the anticipated Fairfield Planning Commission recommendation, the Fairfield City Council will have two additional readings of the legislation that would ban sexual encounter businesses.

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