Gaithersburg is working on a way to let fortunetellers back into the city. After a 2010 Montgomery County case overturned a penalty on fortunetelling and similar businesses, Gaithersburg is repealing its city-wide prohibition on the businesses and allowing them into specific zones.
Lauren Pruss, planning director for the City of Gaithersburg, warned that businesses like fortunetelling could be a detriment to their surrounding neighborhoods. The city will evaluate them on a case-by-case basis, she said.
“We do believe that the negative stigma ... warrants careful attention to the placement of [fortunetelling businesses],” Pruss told the city council Monday night.
Council member Henry F. Marraffa Jr. said the city should be careful of where it allows the businesses.
“I wouldn’t open up the city right now,” he said.
Marraffa also expressed concern with the definition of fortunetelling. The ordinance currently states that fortunetelling “shall not be considered a home occupation, church or other place of worship.” Marraffa said certain churches could be unintentionally pulled into the language.
“I want to make this as restricted as possible,” he said. “Somebody could piggyback off this and go to court.”
Several council members wanted changes to the existing definition, which says any means of predicting the future for profit is fortunetelling. The definition mentions methods like psychic powers, necromancy, cards, talismans, tea leaves, palmistry and psychology.
Danny Winborne of the city’s planning commission said the inclusion of psychology may be too broad. “People go to psychologists all the time,” he said.
Mayor Sidney Katz argued psychologists would be subject to higher standards.
“A psychologist would have to be approved by the state of Maryland ... [while] fortunetellers do not have to go through any licensing in this state,” he said.
The council authorized city staff to move forward with their proposed amendments to repeal the prohibition of fortunetelling and set up zoning regulations. Pruss said their fortunetelling definition will be redrafted before any official changes are made. Planning staff will present the changes to the council within the next few months, she said.
“We have some guidance from the council, we have some amendments to make,” she said.