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New McKeesport zone district would confine sexually oriented businesses

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 4:16 a.m.

McKeesport is establishing a new zoning district to confine sexually oriented businesses to its West Fifth Avenue corridor.

City council is expected to act on an ordinance during its meeting on Wednesday that will define the C-3(a) zoning district — General Commercial Adult District — and limit it to the area of West Fifth Avenue between the W.D. Mansfield Memorial and Jerome bridges.

While the district does not outright permit the operation of sexually oriented businesses such as a gentlemen's club or adult theater, it will allow them to open in the defined area by conditional use.

“This is going to be a district along West Fifth Avenue only,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “It won't extend into any (other) parts of the Tenth Ward.”

The topic of sexually oriented businesses has been controversial in the city since February, when the Saints and Sinners gentlemen's club planned a Valentine's Day opening in the former Chick's Grill in Christy Park. It has been subject to council discussions, community meetings and public protests.

The business has yet to open because proper permits have not been acquired. City officials said the zoning change might not affect Saints and Sinners because its plan was submitted prior to any zoning ordinance revisions.

City officials have discussed the establishment of a C-3(a) zoning district for several months.

Notice was given to the Allegheny County Department of Community and Economic Development, and a public hearing took place on Tuesday evening prior to city council's caucus. No testimony was offered.

Cherepko said he does not expect city residents to take issue with conditionally permitting sexually oriented businesses in the West Fifth Avenue corridor because two already exist. Beemer's advertises nude dancers, and there is an adult bookstore/theater.

“This area was already a district by itself,” Cherepko said. “We didn't have to subdivide any other districts.”

Solicitor J. Jason Elash explained the district does not include any residential streets. It is clearly defined as the roadway and the business lots, he said.

“We concluded that this particular area would be uniquely suitable for these types of businesses,” Elash said. “We didn't have to re-draw any maps, and the lack of any residential housing adjacent to any of the parcels prevents these types of businesses from being a nuisance.”

The ordinance states that sexually oriented businesses are best located in industrial areas removed from residential neighborhoods and central business districts to ensure the adverse secondary effects are minimized. Those effects are defined as increased crime, the spread of blight and a threat to health and property values.

Adult sexually oriented businesses that will be permitted with expressed approval as conditional use include adult arcades, bookstores, novelty stores and theaters; escort agencies; nude model studios; and any other business where the primary attraction is the exhibition of nude or partially nude people.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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