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Publication Date


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Urban Lawer


first amendment, adult businesses, historic preservation, Supreme Court, land use


Once again in the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has entered an opinion involving the first amendment that has significant ramifications for local zoning and planning. This marks the third time since 1986 that the Court has handed down a decision in this field. The most important development in this area of the law since last year's committee report is the Supreme Court's decision in FW/PBS, Inc. v. City of Dallas, which addressed the validity of a comprehensive adult entertainment zoning and licensing ordinance enacted by Dallas in 1986. FW/PBS was followed with great interest because it marked the first time the Court had considered the validity of using a restrictive licensing scheme to regulate adult entertainment businesses. The first amendment is also increasingly important in the field of historic preservation law, where local preservation commissions are now frequently encountering resistance from religious groups when they designate historic churches, or deny permits to alter or demolish them. In two cases decided this past year in New York and Boston, churches claimed that landmark designation interfered with the free exercise of religion, testing the traditionally zoning and land-use notions about regulation of the location, use, and occupancy of church structures.