It’s not every day the Kokomo-Howard County Plan Commission receives an inquiry about starting a “spanking club,” so a recent call was a bit of a shock for planner Jim Hunter.

The discreet inquiry into the possibility of opening a “spanking club” generated more than a little laughter and curiosity in county government circles, but Hunter said he’s still not sure his mystery caller was completely serious.

“I urged caution. I told her, ‘don’t make any commitments anywhere until you get your permits,’” Hunter recalled.

No such club exists in Kokomo, at least as any kind of public entity. Whether any kind of private group exists here, even Internet-based, is another question.

Mike Billa, co-owner of Crimson Moon Ltd., a Chicago-based event planning service for the spanking scene, said there are quite a few public misconceptions about the fetish.

Billa said nudity (apart from bared buttocks) and sexual activity aren’t allowed at “spanking parties” hosted by Crimson Moon.

“We strictly get together for spanking. We’re not swingers or anything like that,” Billa said.

Typically, members of the private club gather at a hotel. Alcohol, nudity and sexual activity aren’t allowed at any of the group parties, Billa said, but what members do in the privacy of their own rooms is their business.

Billa said that’s a typical arrangement for spanking clubs around the country. Most clubs cater to a certain set of individuals, he added, asking anyone interested to fill out an application and submit to a personal interview before being accepted into the club.

Billa’s club, for instance, doesn’t cater to the gay community and doesn’t engage in any of the more hard-core forms of bondage and discipline, he said.

Members also must pay for hotel rooms and entrance fees to the spanking parties well in advance. Taking money at the door to enter such an event would put the club afoul of prostitution laws, he said.

Organizing a spanking club wouldn’t require owning any real estate or setting up any kind of “storefront” business. Having such a fixed location might even be a disadvantage.

If she ran a private club from her home or a post office box, the woman who contacted Hunter wouldn’t really need any kind of a permit at all, just a hotel willing to host a spanking get-together.

Plan Commission Director Glen Boise said the biggest — perhaps the only — obstacle to starting a sexually oriented business in any city is finding an appropriate location.

Kokomo’s zoning ordinance forbids sexually oriented businesses from locating within a certain distance from numerous “sensitive uses” including churches, schools, residential neighborhoods and other sexually oriented businesses.

As a result, there are only a handful of spots within city limits where such a business could locate, Boise said.

If a sexually oriented business can purchase or lease an appropriate location, far enough away from any sensitive uses, local government wouldn’t have much choice but to allow the business to operate, Boise said.

If it meets the zoning requirements, a sexually oriented business does not need any kind of “special use” permit to operate, Boise said, because the courts recognize most local zoning boards would never approve that sort of special use permit, given its “druthers.”

The courts have clearly ruled that cities cannot zone sexually oriented businesses out of existence, he said.

“We have to provide some [location] of a reasonable character,” Boise said. “So we couldn’t set it up so the [only possible zoning location] would be in the middle of Chrysler property.”

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