In June, Gaithersburg, Maryland City Council proposed amendments to the city code that would repeal the ban on fortune-telling businesses.
They did this in order to act in accordance with the Maryland Court of Appeals decision of 2010, which struck down a similar ban in Montgomery County for being unconstitutional.
While City Council agreed that the ban needed to be rescinded, they wanted to restrict fortune-telling to specific areas of the city and asked the Planning Commission to draft new ordinances.
Last week, Council was presented with the proposed zoning text amendments.
Per the proposal, fortune-telling businesses would only be permitted ‘in the I-1 Light Industrial zone, and allowed expressly as a special exception in the C-2 General Commercial, CBD Central Business District, CD Corridor Development, and MXD Mixed Use Development zones.’
Fortune-telling would be prohibited as a home occupation.
Though Council authorized city staff to move forward with both establishing the new zoning regulations and repealing the fortune-telling prohibition, they requested a redraft of the actual definition of fortune-telling before official changes are made.
As it stands, the draft presented to Council defines ‘fortune-telling’ as:
‘Any attempt to tell fortunes or predict the future (for pay or voluntary contributions) by means of occult or psychic powers, faculties, or forces; necromancy, palmistry, psychology, psychic psychometry, spirits, mediumship, seership, prophesy, cards, talismans, sorcery, charms, potions, magnetism, tea leaves, magic, numerology, mechanical devices, handwriting analyses, phrenology, character readings, or any other similar means. Fortune telling shall not be considered a home occupation, church, or other place of worship.’
Some Council members were disturbed by the inclusion of both psychology and churches in the definition and would like those words removed. Planning staff will follow up on Council recommendations and present the changes within the next few months.
Interestingly, the Commission’s report noted that fortune-telling businesses have a negative stigma, and have historically fallen into the category of ‘urban decline use’.
Other businesses in that category include pawn shops, tattoo parlors, check cashing, and sexually oriented establishments.