Settle promises another look at sex ordinance

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 140 views 

Fort Smith Director and Vice Mayor Kevin Settle says he will seek another vote on the city’s sexually-oriented business ordinance when a new Board is seated.

During a Thursday (May 31) interview for an upcoming The City Wire Show, Settle said the Board of Directors needs to revisit the ordinance to avoid the risk of an expensive lawsuit.

On May 15, the Fort Smith Board of Directors voted 5-2 to reduce to 1.4% the developable land in the city that is open to locating a sexually-oriented business. Directors Settle and Steve Tyler attempted to move to 4% the land open to a sexually-oriented business in an effort to be more compliant with U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Fort Smith attorney Rick Wade noted in an April 17 letter that federal courts have said cities “must allocate a reasonable percentage of the city’s landmass” for operations of sexually oriented businesses.

“As to how low that percentage may go, the courts have indicated that approximately 5% of the entire land area of one city was sufficient and that 6.6% of the total acreage of land zoned for commercial properties in another city provided reasonable alternative avenues of communication,” Wade wrote.

With the May 15 vote, the Fort Smith ordinance moved the percentage from 1.9% to 1.4%.

Settle noted during the Thursday interview the $800,000 judgment against the city in the 1990s as a result of an overly-restrictive ordinance. Fort Smith officials lost a legal battle with Regina’s House of Dolls, an adult-oriented business that operated during the 1990’s in Fort Smith.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors will have at least two new faces on the seven-member panel following the November election. Directors Tyler and Don Hutchings are not running for re-election. City Director George Catsavis faces John Cooley for the Ward 4 seat. City Director Andre Good, who has said he will seek re-election, does not have an announced opponent. The filing period for Fort Smith races ends at noon on June 5.

Settle holds one of the three at-large Board seats that are not up for re-election in November.

“It’s something I want to bring up with the new board,” Settle said during the interview. “I think we have to fix it for the people of Fort Smith.”

Settle acknowledged it is a “delicate subject,” but that the courts have clearly stated “they (sexually-oriented businesses) have a right” to operate.

Before the May 15 vote, Hutchings dismissed the idea of a lawsuit.

“I think we’re afraid of something that will possibly never happen,” Hutchings said.

5NEWS (KFSM TV 5 and KXNW TV 34) and The City Wire produce a weekly one-hour news show designed to provide more indepth information about business, politics and arts & entertainment news in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas.

The City Wire Show, which appears Saturday and Sunday mornings in the two markets, includes a recap of major events, updates and details on ongoing issues, updates on newsmakers and discussion of arts & entertainment action.

The show, officially titled “5NEWS Presents: The City Wire,” airs on Saturday mornings at 8 .m. on KXNW-TV 34, which is channel 20 for Cox cable customers in Northwest Arkansas and channel 8 for Cox cable customers in the Fort Smith area. The show airs on Sunday mornings at 6 a.m. on KFSM-TV 5.

5NEWS Anchor Daren Bobb and The City Wire managing editor Michael Tilley serve as hosts for the show. Also, Kyle Kellams, news director for KUAF 91.3FM, Cyd King, arts & entertainment editor for The City Wire, are part of the show and talk about the cultural scene in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith areas.