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    Fines pile up against voyeur Web site

    Ucanwatch.com, which operates out of a Tarpon Springs house, ignores the city's May 15 deadline to shut down.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


    TARPON SPRINGS -- A month after being told to shut down its local operation, a voyeuristic nude Web site continued to run out of a Tarpon Springs home this week and started accruing $800 a day in fines, city officials said.

    Fines started accumulating Tuesday against ucanwatch.com and Stephen Shutt, who owns the waterfront home where the naked women featured on the Web site are. The company and Shutt each will be fined $400 a day until the company stops doing business out of the house, said Walter Fufidio, the city's director of planning and zoning.

    "To the best of our knowledge, they're still operating," Fufidio said. "The fine is running."

    City Attorney John Hubbard said Thursday that he would ask the City Commission for the authority to seek a court injunction against ucanwatch.com, which would require that the company shut down its operation from the Kreamer Bayou home. The issue is tentatively scheduled for a special session May 29.

    Hubbard said that process probably would be the fastest way to shut down the business at the house, which is zoned residential/single family. If a judge approves the city's request, he said, the business could be forced to close in a month or two.

    "We think that the most effective thing to do . . . is go into court," Hubbard said.

    Shutt, who owns the house, said he should not be responsible for the $400 a day he is being assessed. He said he has given the city a copy of the lease agreement for the house, and he said ucanwatch.com should be responsible for any fines.

    Mike Schriver, who owns the company, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

    Attorney Steve Bartlett, who represented the company at a city hearing last month, said Thursday that he doesn't know if he is still representing ucanwatch.com. He said the company expressed interest in having him work on an appeal, but he doesn't have enough time because of his work on other cases, he said.

    In April, Tarpon Springs' Code Enforcement Board told ucanwatch.com to shut down its local operation by May 15 or face the daily fines.

    The board ruled that the company violates city ordinances requiring all businesses to obtain occupational licenses and requiring adult-use businesses to obtain an adult-use permit. It also violates ordinances that only allow adult businesses in highway business districts and that do not allow such businesses in areas zoned residential/single family, according to the board.

    Bartlett and Schriver argued that the company is not located in the Tarpon Springs house, but in cyberspace. They also said that the women featured on the site live in the house rent-free and are not paid for appearing nude or engaging in sexual acts.

    Fufidio said this week that the city is not trying to force ucanwatch.com out of business.

    "We're not asking that they shut down their business," he said, "just that they relocate to a more appropriate place."

    - Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182.

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