Porn zone shrinking as public hearing approaches

Published on Thu, Aug 9, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Porn zone shrinking as public hearing approaches

By Meg Olson

After two focus group and one open town meeting, the area proposed for allowing the sex trade has been limited to two small areas: 22 acres south of Pipeline Road and east of Yew Avenue and an 18-acre strip between Portal Way and I-5. “Areas have been excluded from the overlay based on public input,” Blaine community and economic development director Terry Galvin said at an August 6 workshop.

Adult bookstores, arcades, movie theaters, cabarets and motels would be allowed as conditional uses, and there would be a public hearing before they were permitted. “It requires a public process including full disclosure and public comment,” Galvin said. These businesses would only be allowed in the proposed zone, and any existing businesses would have six months to relocate.

There is currently only one existing sex business in Blaine, the Blaine Book Company, but Galvin said the ordinance is not about one business. “This is not directed at the bookstore,” he said. “It’s directed at the advisability of having these kinds of businesses downtown.” Current regulations allow adult entertainment businesses in the central business district, subject to regulations already in the city’s existing code. “We’ve come up with about 15 sites where you could have an adult business downtown,” Galvin said.
While all city council members were for the principle of limiting locations for the sex trade, they disagreed over how far the ordinance should go.

“I can’t see how we can change laws and not grandfather existing businesses in,” said Frank Bresnan Jr. “If we’re really talking about zoning and not the bookstore, why is this in here?” he asked of the time limit set on existing businesses to relocate. “There are substantial overriding public reasons,” said city attorney John Sitkin. “We’re not saying you can’t continue. You just have to move.” The ordinance allows for extensions if the business shows cash flow is insufficient to pay for the move.

Bresnan was also concerned about impact on nearby residents, now and in the future. “How do you protect the people and not zones?” he asked. “We’re looking at the potential for a big annexation east of there,” he added referring to the Pipeline Road zone.

There are two residences now in the proposed overlay zone, which is zoned manufacturing. Galvin said they were considered transitional uses of land that would eventually be sold for a use more suited to the area. The ordinance will limit distance any adult business can be from homes, churches, residential zones, parks, schools and other community resources. Land east of Odell Road, which could make up a potential annexation, is also tagged for manufacturing uses.

“This is the lesser of two evils if you want to pursue this,” Galvin said. “In coming up with alternatives for an overlay this is about the best you can do.”

“We’re looking at the greater good for a larger group of people,” agreed John Liebert. “You’re not going to find anything that’s ideal.”

“I still feel uncomfortable with this,” said Bonnie Onyon. “There’s too much wiggle-room.” Onyon felt the ideal would be to outlaw the sex-related businesses altogether in Blaine. “What if it doesn’t have less of an impact there? What if its worse? What if there’s nowhere in the city it can go?”

Sitkin was not enthusiastic. “You could do that but there may be a series of legal challenges. You can regulate free speech, and that’s what we’re dealing with, in time place and manner,” he said. “You can’t prohibit it and that’s what the court would uphold.”

“The court can put weight on community standards,” Onyon persevered.
Liebert was more concerned with an ordinance that would be effective, legally watertight and keep the city out of court. “How restrictive can we make it before it’s successfully legally challenged,” he said. “It needs to work.”

The public will get to put in their two-cents worth again at a public hearing August 27 at 7 p.m. at city hall. Council is not expected to decide on the ordinance until at least the end of the month. .

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