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X-cellent idea for Mapleton?

City is considering limiting sex shops to specific area

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MAPLETON — Scantily clad waitresses and nearly nude dancers don't work in the local bars. There are no X-rated films on video store shelves.

Mapleton doesn't have any bars or video stores.

Actually, the city has virtually no commercial enterprises of note.

But that hasn't stopped the City Council from taking a long, hard look at the issue of sexually oriented business — SOBs for short.

So what is prompting the concern in this small, heavily LDS enclave tucked between Springville and Spanish Fork where most commercial ventures are relatively small home-based operations?

The City Council recently received a wake-up notice from City Attorney Jim Brady, informing it that the city's current zoning ordinances leave the city with little control in the area of SOBs.

Existing city zoning ordinances, based on recent court rulings, provide the city with little or no leverage to prevent the opening of a porn shop or nude dance hall in Mapleton, and a person could do just about anywhere he wants in the city, Brady said at a recent council meeting.

Given the status of the ordinances, he said, the city would have little chance of prevailing in court if the city is sued for denying a business license.

City leaders find themselves in the difficult position of trying to protect and maintain the town's "old-fashioned charm" while dealing with growth and development and the problems and pressures that accompany it.

No one has ever applied for a permit to open a sexually oriented business in Mapleton, and officials don't expect to see one anytime soon.

"We just want to be ready, to plan ahead," City Councilman Richard Hjorth told the Deseret News.

Councilman Stuart Newton believes the council needs to designate areas in Mapleton for businesses — even the SOBs.

This being a municipal election year, the potential for political fallout is not lost on council members.

No one in Mapleton is going to want the zone in their back yard, Brady said. The answer may be to annex land into the city specifically for an all-purpose zone.

Council members are leery about doing something that could be perceived as inviting sexually oriented businesses to locate here.

"The courts have made it clear you cannot eliminate (a business) by zoning it out of existence," Brady said. "This is the worst of the worst example."

Many cities have dealt with sexually oriented businesses by relegating them to industrial zones in an attempt to keep them out of residential and downtown business areas.

Mapleton has a light industrial-manufacturing zone on U.S. 89, the main highway into town, but officials don't want sexually oriented businesses on the city's main drag.

Resident Rea Bleggi said the city would be prudent to designate an area should the city have to deal with an SOB in the future, but right now, she said she would rather see the city do something to attract a grocery store to Mapleton.

"I'm not concerned about that (the SOBs). Most cities have done that (prepared for sexually oriented businesses)," she said.

"I feel strongly it would be up to the people" whether such businesses would be successful in Mapleton, said Marilyn Petersen, a former mayor. "Where would you hide it in a community like Mapleton?"

E-MAIL: rodger@desnews.com