Frederick County Council Considers Bodyworks Zoning Legislation

A presentation was made to the Council on the bill last week.

Frederick, Md (KM) A number of zoning regulations would be placed on bodyworks establishments such as massage parlors under legislation being considered by the Frederick County Council. “So this bill in front of you is the product of collaboration with our Frederick County INTERCEPT Task Force, and our Frederick County Division of Planning and Permitting,”: says Victoria Venable, Director of Government Relations in the Office of the County Executive. who spoke last week to the Council.  . “This is as a result of several investigations  of illicit massage parlors in Frederick County and Frederick City.”

INTERCEPT stands for Inter-Agency Child Exploitation and Persons Trafficking.

Venable says this legislation addresses  some bodyworks businesses that are engaged illegal activities. “Oftentimes, these illegal activities are human trafficking, money laundering and drug crimes, and charges,” she says. “So these are really impactful criminal activities within our community, and we were eager to work with our Division of Planning and Permitting to address that  through a regulatory framework.”

The legislation would require these establishments to produce a Zoning Verification letter that contains a description of the business, a list of employees and any state licenses they have, or verification of professional standing, if a license is not required.

Also under the bill, bodyworks establishments would be required to submit an annual report. Lindsay Carpenter, the Chief of The Special Victims Unit within the State’s Attorney’s Office, supports the requirement for an annual report. “A lot of individuals do not apply for a permit. But the ones who do, they will find someone who is a licensed masseuse. They will come in, use that person’s license, have them fill out the application, and that individual never even works at the establishment; or it is the owner of the establishment is licensed and none of the workers are licensed,” she said.

Other requirements prohibit the place of employment from being used for human  habitation, and the Zoning Administrator can conduct periodic inspections. Any violation of this proposed bill could result in the suspension or revocation of the Zoning Certificate approval.

“I will note that things like  physical therapy or athletic training businesses are captured in other parts of the code, oftentimes as medical clinics or within office spaces,” says Venable.

The Council is expected to hold a hearing on this bill at a later date.

By Kevin McManus