Starship hearing is Monday

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Representatives from both Coweta County and the local Starship store will be in court Monday for a hearing on the store's alleged violation of the county's obscenity ordinance.

The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in Coweta Magistrate Court before Chief Magistrate James Stripling.

Starship was issued a citation on May 17 for violating the ordinance's prohibition on the sale of sex toys.

Under the county's ordinance, it is unlawful to sell, or possess with the intent to sell, 'any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs,' unless the devices are being sold for a 'bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purpose.'

Starship's position is that the devices were only being sold for medical, scientific and educational purposes. Signs in the store indicate the items are only to be purchased for those purposes, according to Starship's attorney, Allen Begner.

The citation was issued following several citizen complaints, according to Coweta County officials.

The Coweta Starship store opened after an extensive legal battle. Coweta officials were notified that Starship President Kelly Rogers wanted to put a store at Thomas Crossroads in the fall of 2008. A building permit for renovations was issued, as was a permit for signs.

In January, new commissioners took office and Coweta County enacted a new ordinance regulating sexually-oriented businesses. The ordinances were enacted in a called meeting after Starship had applied for a business license.

Under the sexually-oriented business ordinance, a store is considered an 'adult bookstore' if more than 25 percent of the inventory, sales, or floor space is pornographic materials. As long as the 25 percent threshold isn't reached, a store can carry pornography and not have to meet the strict zoning requirements for sexually-oriented businesses. The requirements limit sexually-oriented businesses to industrially-zoned areas far from homes, churches, or schools.

The 25 percent stipulation wasn't new, but the ordinance became more restrictive in its definition, adding other triggers, such as the words 'adult' or 'XXX.'

In early 2009, Starship representatives said they planned to abide by the new ordinances while they challenged them in court.

A hearing was held before the county's business license appeals board and the board voted to recommend Starship be granted a business license, but the county commissioners unanimously voted to deny the license.

It took a ruling in Coweta Superior Court in April of 2010 for the store to finally be granted a business license, and the store opened in late 2010 - two years after the original building permit application.

Judge Jack Kirby's ruling ordered the county to grant the business license with the stipulation that the store must comply with the county's ordinances.

The federal suit, asking for damages and challenging the county's ordinances, was dismissed.

Starship could re-file the challenge to the constitutionality of the ordinances.

Judge Stripling may rule from the bench on Monday, or he could take several weeks to issue a ruling.



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