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Soldotna residents oppose book store

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2005

A proposed adult book and novelty store in Soldotna city limits resulted in overwhelming public outcry in an emotionally emphatic city council meeting Wednesday.

Those who professed, in the most heavily attended council meeting in recent history, did so principally in the name of morality and decency — and God.

Testimonial after testimonial was laced with a sense of people who felt pornography would be the final undoing of their protected and pure town touched by the hand of that God.

Former Soldotna Mayor Kearlee Wright commanded those present to picture themselves as an elm tree made by the divine creator and threatened by the sinister and diabolical enemy, "sleazy smut." He said pornography was addicting and resulted in sex crimes. He said the pornography industry is a deadly disease creeping through the community, threatening to choke its life, much like how the birch beetle takes life from a tree.

"You can't stop it entirely, but you can put potholes in the road that could bring it here," Wright said.

Kent Christenson recalled seeing American flags flying over the rubble left by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and how the banners read, "God bless America."

"If we see this come into our community, how can we expect God to bless America?" he said. "Porn dulls the sensitivity to the finer things in life."

Mother and daycare provider Jessica Baker pleaded through tears to the council to oppose any sort of "nasty evils" that would threaten the community. She said she would do whatever it takes to protect her five children and those she cares for from those evils.

Other common arguments were that the business would cause "suffering," "pain," "degradation," "low morality," "sneaking behavior," and that it would cause people to do "bad things," "ruin and destroy good people" and "bring filth into a precious community."

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District board member Dr. Nels Anderson put things into perspective from a more sobering point of view.

"You have to ask yourself if it's good for kids. We have to be careful of trampling on freedom, but it has to be the responsibility of the council to do what is edifying and what is best for the community. We don't allow ultimate freedom of expression. Would this be uplifting to the community?" he asked.

No person spoke in opposition to the zoning changes.

The council passed ordinance 2005-09, amending the zoning code — essentially zoning adult book and novelty stores out of most parts of the city. The zoning restricts adult businesses from existing 500 feet from public or private schools, daycare facilities, churches, package liquor stores and other adult businesses.

"It's too bad this (ordinance) just can't say the words: Adult book store, prohibited," said council member Jim Stogsdill.

Council member Sharon Moock said the people of Soldotna consistently come to speak out on quality of life issues.

"This validates everything I knew we were all about," she said.

Dan Spindler came to the meeting as part of a requirement for government class at Soldotna High School.

"I don't think this is that big of a deal because kids can get to this stuff anyway," he said.

Following the meeting, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey said he was pleasantly surprised at the large turnout.

"This is democracy at its best," Carey said. "It is the role of government to stand for good and hold higher expectations of decency."

Carey said if a company were to open some type of adult facility within the regulations, there is a reasonable expectation there would be picketing.

Carey said he received petitions numbering more than 700 signatures and heard nothing but opposition to the idea of an adult store, which originally came about when a representative of an international firm inquired if there were regulations on adult businesses.

The firm could not be reached for comment.

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