EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial was written by The Northwest Florida Daily News.
We’re often reminded that free-speech rights aren’t intended just to protect popular speech; they’re there to protect UNpopular speech, the kind that some people find offensive. The same can be said of property rights. They allow people to build not just routine stuff but also things that sometimes rile the neighbors — such as ugly homes or tattoo parlors or condos so tall they block the sun.
Or topless dancing clubs.
Destin is abuzz with yet another controversy over yet another place that, when it’s built, may feature scantily clad women. In this case it’s The Runway, a two-story business planned for the site of the defunct Pottery World on Airport Road. Its backers say it’ll be an “adult cabaret.”
In case you’re wondering, Destin allows adult entertainment in areas zoned for industrial use. This is one of those areas.
Nevertheless, a veterinarian whose business is nearby was fuming last week. “I want my neighbors, my town, my community to know” about The Runway, she said. “I want help. I want moral outrage.”
This, even though plans for The Runway appear to be in order and perfectly legal. “They’re not hiding anything,” said Ken Gallander, Destin’s community development director.
And even though The Runway isn’t likely to wreck property values. In 2010, during a spat over another topless club, a local Realtor said the age and stability of neighborhoods near Destin’s industrial zone would shield them from any impact. Said Ben Anderson, former Florida Association of Realtors District 9 vice president: “Overall, it will not affect the neighborhood.”
If the moral outrage that some residents feel is of the religious variety, they are free to act on that. They can write letters, call talk radio and preach from the pulpit about sins of the flesh. And they can, of course, stay away from The Runway and urge their friends and relatives to avoid it as well. They can even protest to their elected representatives.
But Destin officials should remember that The Runway, as planned, meets the city’s own criteria. We would urge them not to suddenly decide that property rights don’t apply on one particular section of Airport Road.
That would be a different sort of moral outrage.