Published on Thu, Aug 30, 2001
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Blaine city council will keep mulling a city ordinance that would relegate adult entertainment businesses to manufacturing zones, after a packed public hearing couldn’t come up with whose backyard to put them in.

Before the August 27 public hearing, Blaine city planner Terry Galvin urged council to pass the proposed ordinance that could give the city a way to legally drive pornographyentertainment out of downtown. “The issue is what is defensible in court, “ city attorney Jon Sitkin said. “We are offering reasonable options. Too few options will seem constrained to the courts.”

The proposal would establish an adult entertainment overlay in two areas: close to 19 acres, owned by eight parties, between Portal Way and I-5 and 26 acres south of Pipeline Road owned by one family. Sex-related businesses could move into these areas but would need to be at least 1000 feet from schools and residences, at least 500 feet from each other and would need to meet landscaping and signage requirements. Galvin said the proposed areas could accommodate 17 possible locations, and offered reasonable access to the public and adequate infrastructure - the basics if the ordinance were to stand up in court.

The new law would require existing businesses to close or move within a year, with the possibility of extensions if the company showed their income couldn’t cover the move. The Blaine Book Company on Peace Portal Drive is now the only adult entertainment business in Blaine, and many audience members felt getting it off Peace Portal Drive wasn’t worth creating a potential porn zone south of town.

“Leave it where it is, let it die a natural death,” said Blaine resident Rhonda Bresnan. “Keeping it in a hidden area is not a good choice.” Ernst Hartl, one of the property owners in the Portal Way area, said the city proposal endangered families and businesses nearby. “I see buses with school kids going by,” he said. “I will not sell my property to this kind of business.”

Mary Rankin, an owner of the Blackberry House downtown, felt that one neighborhood shouldn’t suffer to clean up another. “The city should continue to be on good terms with existing businesses as well as court new businesses,” she said.

“I think we’re better off keeping this in the central business district.” council member Frank Bresnan Jr. said. “This is not a step in the right direction. Its going to take a huge effort by a lot of people to improve downtown. I don’t think that bookstore is our sole problem,” he said

Several speakers felt the city’s best course of action was to pursue collecting fines from the bookstore. “Keep pressure on to get the fines collected,” said Al Dahl. Last June the company was ordered to pay $33,000 in penalties with $13,000 suspended for repeatedly violating the city’s standards for adult businesses. So far, none has been collected but Sitkin said Monday that Blaine has received direction from Superior Court to pursue collection of those fines immediately.

Only one person spoke in support of the rezone. Previous council member Alma Wagner said it was time for the city to take action and stop waiting. “This has been a long time coming,” Wagner said.

Charles Gibson said the city had the right intentions, but might be going about it the wrong way.

“We all appreciate the work that’s gone into this, but I’ve got questions for and against it,” he said. “We don’t want to create an effective back door where these businesses can hide from the public eye.” Gibson felt the community wanted to see action directed at the existing adult business first. “The agressive collection of fines is an important step,” he said. “There are also a lot of different regulations not being enforced that could be.”

Given the volume of public testimony, council opted to continue accepting input until Friday, August 31, and revisit the issue at their next scheduled meeting, September 10. “They will discuss it further, review input and either approve it, amend it or reject it,” Galvin said..

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