The Bloomington Plan Commission has announced that it is making moves to make more land available for adult businesses. The commission altered the existing ordinance on where "sexually oriented businesses," — as the Herald Times dubs them — can exist in the city. The alterations expand the amount of space available for these businesses, but still have to be approved by the city council.
The Editorial Board thinks the expansion is a great idea that would push the town to have a more sex-positive culture. Additionally, more sex shops and adult bookstores can provide exposure to and educate those who were left in the dark because of Indiana's primarily abstinence-based sexual education.
Currently, 0.045 percent of land — that's 1.05 square miles of city and 1.04 square miles of land — in Bloomington is open to possible adult businesses. These businesses must be at least 500 feet away from places of worship, schools, day cares, parks, cemeteries, large shopping centers and residential areas.
Under the commission's alteration, the space available would be expanded to almost 4 percent. The requirements to stay away from cemeteries and large shopping centers would be removed from the city code.
Joe Hoffmann, president of the Bloomington Plan Commission, said in the Herald Times coverage of the code change that this move is about “getting city code in line with the First Amendment.” There was a previous case in Washington where the Supreme Court found that a town's 5 percent land ordinance was suitable, and while that isn't a minimum a town has to hit, it's a good place to start to avoid any litigation.
Hoffmann also said he does not think this move means there will necessarily be more adult businesses.
But we think this city code alteration is a good place to start. If you build it, they will come, right?
Having more sexually-oriented businesses around can offer students and Bloomington citizens alike places to explore their sexualities and see what's out there.
It's fairly likely that most young folk buy their sex toys online in the comfort of their homes where no one can see them. That's because there a sort of shame and embarrassment, as sex toy academic Susan Quilliam found, associated with these purchases.
However, having a higher density of sex shops around can normalize a completely nonshameful behavior. Also, it's nice to be able to go into a physical store and check out what you're buying instead of trusting reviews.
This change to sexual business zoning also comes at a very good time.
The city bought Night Moves, a strip club, in the spring. Because of its location on the 65 acres of the future Switchyard Park project, developers said it would be in their best interest to purchase neighboring properties to ensure they complement Switchyard Park.
The park development begins in 2020. Coincidentally, 2020 is also when the lease of Night Moves ends.
If city developers plan on demolishing Night Moves for the Switchyard Project, expanding space for adult businesses makes a lot of sense. The owners might want to open a new location and would need available land to do so. Or, alternatively, a new adult entertainment business may swoop in to fill the void left behind.
We hope the Bloomington City Council approves the new zoning ordinances and that the town attracts more adult businesses.
Even though most college students probably use Amazon these days, it’s still a good opportunity for people to get hands-on experience with the products.
Hopefully, any new sexually oriented businesses can help break down the stigma that surrounds sexual exploration and offer information for those who are curious or uninformed.