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Voters in Yellowstone County appear tonight approved a ballot initiative that would use zoning laws to impose increased restrictions on sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs and adult book stores.

With 69 out of 69 precincts reporting, 13,612 votes have been received in favor of the ordinance, and 13,187 votes have been received against it.

The sexually oriented businesses ordinance would require county planning staff to go beyond existing rules and regulate the interiors and business operations of a list of "sexually oriented businesses." The ordinance would not apply inside the city, which has its own zoning restricting sexually oriented businesses as well as a longstanding ordinance against nudity in establishments that sell alcohol.

After many public hearings and a court case designed to test the constitutionality of both ordinances, county commissioners voted unanimously to place the initiative on the ballot. Because the commissioners put the measure on the ballot without requiring supporters to gather signatures through the initiative process, and because of concerns that the initiative may prove unconstitutional, a legal challenge is expected.

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