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Published: Friday, 4/26/2002

Tougher rules on massage parlors backed by Perrysburg

A law allowing tougher rules for massage parlors was endorsed last night by the Perrysburg planning commission even though some residents said it should have been even more restrictive.

In a 7-0 vote, the commission recommended approval of a law intended to regulate any business offering massages by unlicensed therapists.

Peter Gwyn, the city law director, said the proposed law is modeled on a 1970s Columbus law that partially withstood a court challenge.

The Perrysburg measure will stipulate that unlicensed therapists would be allowed to administer massages only to someone of the same sex, a provision found in the Elyria, Ohio, law that was upheld in 1993 by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

“From the case law we have been able to look at, we believe this ordinance will ... pass constitutional muster,” Mr. Gwyn said.

Jon Modene, who helped rally residents asking for better rules, complained the city has offered only modest improvements to ward off sexually oriented businesses.

“It should be made much tougher than it is right now,” he said. It's worth trying harsher provisions, even if some of them might fail a court challenge, Mr. Modene said.

“Where other [communities] ask for a $100,000 bond and very expensive sanitary requirements, the proposed ordinance has $100 fees,” he said.

A Perrysburg resident who declined to give her name said she wants the city to impose a condition requiring that massage parlors be 2,000 feet from schools and playgrounds rather than the proposed 1,000 feet minimum.

“I don't know that the matter has been given enough study,” she said.

At the urging of residents, city officials drafted a measure for tighter rules on massage parlors after a health spa opened briefly this year in an office building on West South Boundary Street, offering massages by unlicensed therapists.

Residents feared the spa was trading sexual favors for money, but police never cited the business or its employees. The spa was shut down April 17 by the landlord because the spa's massage therapists were not state-licensed as required by the lease.

Mayor Jody Holbrook said city officials will consider making more revisions before the measure gets to council next month. “We will try tightening it up because we all share the same sentiment,” Mayor Holbrook said.

The proposal still requires a further public hearing and council approval before it becomes law.

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