LAS CRUCES (AP) - The planning and zoning commission in Las Cruces rejected a proposal for the first strip club in the city of nearly 100,000 after a public hearing dominated by opponents.
The commission voted 3-1 Tuesday night to deny the application for a club called "The Bronx," even though city planning staff had recommended approval because it met zoning requirements.
Opponents who spoke at the meeting included ministers and business leaders who quoted scripture and warned of a moral catastrophe if the club was approved, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
They argued that the club would objectify women, damage the city's character and quality of life, increase crime, lower property values and erode the social fabric.
Attorney Karen Wootton, who represents project applicants Jesse and Mariah Hernandez, vowed to appeal the ruling to the City Council and warned of legal consequences for the city.
"The city of Las Cruces, like every other city in the country, cannot completely prohibit adult entertainment," Wootton said. "The First Amendment protects my clients' rights to offer adult entertainment in Las Cruces and the right of people to partake of those businesses."
Wootton told commissioners that moral objections to the strip club were not relevant to a zoning issue. Commissioner Charles B. Scholz was the lone member who agreed.
"I think it's their legal right to do it," said Scholz. "It bothers me when people want to use the law and the influence of the city, to push their morality. That's not what the law is about."
The proposed strip club was to be located next to an adult-themed book and video store in an industrial park.
City planners noted that it met city zoning requirements requiring adult entertainment venues to be placed in industrial zones at least 1,000 feet from schools, churches and parks and recommended the project be approved.
Only four of four dozen speakers at Tuesday night's meeting were in favor of the club. T
ypical of opponents was a Baptist minister who said his foster daughter had been sexually and physically abused after working in a strip club. Other speakers said the business would exploit women and undermine families.
Jim Smith, of Las Cruces, said his grown daughter became sterile after she contracted a sexually transmitted disease two years after working in a strip club.
"I know personally what it does to people," Smith said.
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