The West Chester Township Board of Trustees voted at Tuesday’s meeting in favor of previously proposed text amendments, which includes the prohibition of Internet sweepstakes establishments (otherwise known as Internet cafes) from setting up in the township. The amendments also further define the proximity to the street and the type of signage that would be permitted by sexually-oriented businesses electing to move into West Chester.
“It is right for us to look at ways to keep the township vibrant,” trustee George Lang said. “All of these businesses are constitutionally protected and we just want eliminate the impact that these businesses can have on our community.”
The board’s vote has allowed the proposed text amendments to go before the Butler County Planning Commission and the West Chester Zoning Commission. These text amendments are scheduled to be back before the West Chester Board of Trustees in early August. According to a release from the township, the earliest these changes would go in effect will be in late September.
When the text amendments were first presented to the board during a work session May 24, attorney Scott D. Phillips of the Frost Brown Todd law firm recommended that the board vote to prohibit any Internet sweepstakes establishments in West Chester.
Phillips described Internet cafes (not to be confused with coffee shops or restaurants that provide the Internet) with the “look and the feel of a small casino.”
The attorney said that customers, at a particular Internet sweepstakes establishment, were able to purchase a phone card worth $5 to $50. Then those customers could swipe those cards at computer terminals to play games, such as poker, slot-machine type gaming and tic-tac-toe.
“If you win, the balance goes up and if you lose the balance goes down,” Phillips said.
Phillips described the use of phone cards as a way these companies are trying to avoid gambling laws.
In February, the board agreed to enact a moratorium on Internet cafes. That moratorium postponed those types of businesses from entering the township for a six-month period. The board can decide to extend that moratorium, which is scheduled to be lifted in August.
Another part of the zoning text amendments also concerned sexually-oriented businesses.
Currently, the law permits these types of businesses to be located in a defined a geographic area, which is south of Port Union Railto Road and west of State Route 747.
This proposed amendment will make those types of businesses to be located at least 150 feet back from the main street and put defined the type of signage that will be permitted for these business.
Since the text amendments were approved, the board can also consider a licensing resolution that would require sexually-oriented businesses and their employees to apply for licenses.