Prince George's County officials think it all well and good that District of Columbia authorities have taken steps to close adult stores on the lower 14th Street corridor, but they said yesterday that they don't want to see those businesses take refuge across the city line.
Council member Sue V. Mills said she was particularly upset at reports that a photo studio has opened on New Hampshire Avenue near Takoma Park that she said is operated by Dennis Sobin, a former D.C. mayoral and school board candidate who operates several sexually oriented clubs in the city.
Although Sobin could not be reached for comment yesterday, Joseph T. Healey, the chief of the county's property standards division, said that Sobin applied for the permit to operate the photo studio. "He has made the statement that he was going to move into Prince George's County, and he said he was looking for other places to rent," Healey said.
The studio, which is listed in telephone company records as The Kissing Booth, was granted a county use and occupancy permit on March 7, according to Barbara Villone in the county's property standards office. A store employe answering the phone yesterday identified the establishment as The New Hampshire Avenue Photo Studio.
Mills and other council members complained about the presence of the new business on a retail strip in the county.
"I want to know what can be done. I am extremely frustrated," Mills said.
Mills, who has in the past championed legislation to regulate massage parlors and adult bookstores, said she is unhappy that there is no way to deny permits to operations such as Sobin's.
"A use and occupancy permit cannot be denied on the supposition that they are not going to do what they applied to do," she said. "Then it becomes a zoning and enforcement issue."
Mills said that she has the impression that Montgomery does a better job of regulating such businesses.
But Barbara Holtz, a deputy county attorney, said that legislation governing such places is substantially the same as exists in neighboring Montgomery. "It's enforcement that's lacking," she said.
County Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty said that county ordinances governing the operation of such businesses are being "actively" enforced.
Council member Richard Castaldi joined the chorus of support for Mills' complaint yesterday, saying that community groups should monitor such establishments and help keep them out.
"If the word gets out that Prince George's County is not an attractive place for these people to do business and make money," such businesses would not seek to locate there, he said.