Frederick County Council Takes Testimony On Bodyworks Bill

It would expand regulations on businesses as spas and massage parlors.

Frederick, Md (KM) A hearing was held by the Frederick County Council Tuesday night on a bill to further regulate bodyworks businesses such as spas and massage parlors. The intention is to prevent these establishments from engaging in human trafficking, prostitution or other sex work.

Inga James, the President and Executive Director of Heartly House in Frederick, which assists victims of domestic violence, was the only person who testified. She said the agency has assisted victims of human trafficking since 2021. She says Heartly House assists an average of 150 of these victims each year. “They are primarily children because we have only funding for children right now. In fact, funding only for child sex victims. So we have a long way to go before we can actually provide good victim services for adults which is what this bill addresses,” she said.

The legislation requires these businesses, prior to applying for a zoning permit,  to submit a Zoning Verification Letter describing their business, a list of employees and their current licenses.  For employees who are not required to have licenses, these establishment must verify their professional training.

Every year, the bodyworks establishments  must provide an annual report to the Zoning Administrator which includes an updated  list  of employees, along with copies of their current state licenses or verification of training.

The bill also says these bodyworks businesses must not be used as a place of human habitation. Bodyworks instruction can only be provided by individuals enrolled in training programs  recognized by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The Zoning Administrator or a designee, may conduct periodic inspections of these businesses to verify compliance. Any violation will result in suspension or revocation of the Zoning Certificate approval.

James expressed her backing   for this bill to the Council. “I really stand in support of this bill because it will help us, first of all, create a bit of a bubble. around Frederick County that says we don’t tolerate this here. This cannot happen here. We’re going to protect our community,” she said.

“Putting this into process and creating more of a  tracking system of these businesses will help shield from some of the incoming businesses that want to take root here,” James continued.

The Council is expected to take a vote on this bill at a later date.

By Kevin McManus