Zoning – Part 3

Church Law and Tax 1989-09-01 Recent Developments Zoning Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA •

Church Law and Tax 1989-09-01 Recent Developments


Can a city zoning ordinance ban “adult” bookstores within 500 feet of a church? That was the issue before a California state appeals court. A city ordinance banned adult bookstores within 500 feet of churches, schools, parks, or residences, or within 1000 feet of any other such bookstore. The court noted that the United States Supreme Court had ruled in 1986 that cities are free to ban adult bookstores or theatres within 1000 feet of churches, schools, or residences, provided that such restrictions do not deny such businesses “a reasonable opportunity to open and operate an adult theatre [or bookstore] within the city.” The California court concluded that the ordinance’s prohibition of adult bookstores within 500 feet of churches, schools, parks, or residences was probably permissible since it did not deny such businesses a reasonable opportunity to operate within the city. However, the prohibition that such bookstores could not operate within 1000 feet of each other left little opportunity for them to operate, and accordingly the entire ordinance was invalid. The court observed that this limitation “made so few sites available that the effect was to greatly restrict access to lawful speech.” City of Stanton v. Cox, 255 Cal. Rptr. 682 (4th Dist. 1989).

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