Regulating Sex Businesses

Zoning Practice — October 2006

By Connie Cooper, FAICP, Eric Kelly


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Sex sells, but at the wrong time and place and in the wrong manner it causes communities across the country major headaches. "Non-obscene" adult media, movies, and performances, unlike many other land-use activities, enjoy a certain amount of protection under the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

When a local government regulates an activity protected by the First Amendment based on the "message," the burden falls on the government to justify such action. The challenge is how to regulate sex businesses without reference to the very content of the media or performance that defines it as sex.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses the legal protections applicable to adult book stores, strip clubs, and other sexually oriented businesses and offers guidelines for zoning and licensing regulations.


Page Count
Date Published
Oct. 1, 2006
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Connie Cooper, FAICP
CONNIE B. COOPER, FAICP, president of COOPER CONSULTING COMPANY, INC., is a long-range planning, growth management, and plan implementation professional. The firm specializes in comprehensive growth management, strategic planning, and creative land development, zoning and subdivision regulations. The firm has substantial experience in public outreach, goal setting, visioning charrettes, and many other successful endeavors in public consensus building. Connie B. Cooper, FAICP’s experience spans three decades of planning and development at the state, county, and local levels throughout the US. The FIRM Cooper Consulting Company is a nationally recognized strategic planning, public involvement and plan implementation firm. The firm specializes in strategic and long range comprehensive planning, trans-portation and economic development planning, and land development regulations. The firm is also a key provider of public outreach and goals setting, with many successful endeavors in public consensus building. Connie B. Cooper, FAICP, the president of Cooper Consulting Company, brings major strengths and val-uable perspectives to strategic planning and public outreach assignments. Her three decades of "in the trenches" local government experience and "hands on" private sector work provide clients with an enormous wealth of expertise.

Eric Kelly
Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University (retired in 2017) and an independent planning consultant. A frequent litigation consultant and expert witness on cases involving the regulation of signs, billboards and/or adult businesses. Has consulted with more than 100 local governments in more than 35 states. Since 1995, Kelly has been general editor of the 10-volume Matthew Bender set Zoning and Land Use Controls. An author or co-author of seven technical reports published in the Planning Advisory Service Reports series of the American Planning Association, including Everything you always wanted to know about regulating sex businesses with Connie Cooper. Kelly is a past national president of the American Planning Association, and in 1999, he was inducted as one of the members of College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Kelly holds Master of City Planning and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in public policy from the Union Institute. He is a member of the Colorado bar. He completed Yoga Teacher Training in 2017 and now teaches Yoga -- mostly for people new to Yoga -- at several locations.