Adult business zoning gets once-over from council

Published on Thu, May 16, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Adult business zoning gets once-over from council

By Meg Olson

Blaine city council took up the rules for the city’s adult entertainment overlay again after local business owner Jeff Robinson asked for changes to protect his employees.

“I have 80 employees during our busy season, many of them women,” said Robinson, the owner of Totally Chocolate on Pipeline Road, whose property borders on the overlay. “To leave on a dark night and be 40 feet from potentially two adult businesses is a real danger.”

Robinson had requested two changes to the adult entertainment overlay zone approved by council last August. In an October letter he asked that the ordinance, which says “not more than one” adult business may be located within 500 feet of another, be changed to “no adult ordinance business may be located within 500 feet of another.”

“It was plainly poorly written,” he told council on May 13, arguing existing language allowed two such businesses to cluster within the 500-foot limit.
Robinson also asked that the buffer separating an existing business outside the zone from a new adult business be increased from 40 to 500 feet.

“Every other entity gets 1,000 feet,” he said. “Why is it that business is the only one not getting consideration? Why do people get consideration in all these other activities but not where they work?” The current ordinance requires that adult entertainment businesses locating in the zone be 1,000 feet from schools, churches, parks, libraries, and residential zones, explained community and economic development director Terry Galvin. It provides for 40-foot setbacks from adjacent businesses and barrier buffers.

Galvin said that, after staff review of Robinson’s request, he agreed the language needed to be clarified regarding the 500-foot separation between adult businesses so they could not cluster. However, he did not support the 500-foot separation from existing businesses outside the zone, such as Robinson’s, but said he would support a 300-foot buffer. “The number of hypothetical locations for these businesses in the zone stays the same if we use 300 feet but you lose some if we go to 500,” he explained. Three existing businesses are less than 500 feet from the overlay zone.

Galvin said the original overlay, which encompasses an area south of Pipeline Road and another east of Peace Portal Drive, was set up to offer what city legal counsel considered a minimum number of sites for adult business, so the city could ban it from the rest of Blaine without getting into legal tangles. If rules about where these businesses could locate become too restrictive, the city loses its legal leg to stand on. By pushing adult businesses 500 feet further into the zone it effectively eliminated possible locations, which was not the case if the buffer was cut to 300 feet.

“Why do we need 500 feet of separation between the adult businesses?” Robinson asked, suggesting adult businesses be moved closer together to allow for the larger buffer for his business. Galvin said city attorney John Sitkin supported the larger gap to prevent a cluster effect. “Three hundred feet is a football field,” Galvin said, “which provides a buffer while maintaining that separation between adult businesses which I think is important.”

“At this point in our history I don’t see a huge influx of these businesses but in 50 years, when we’re as big as Federal Way, I don’t want to see a bunch of these businesses all in this little area,” agreed council member Marsha Hawkins. “I’d like to keep it the way it is. We’ve discussed it before and the existing 40-foot buffer was acceptable when we passed the ordinance. What’s changed?”

Council member Ken Ely, however, asked that staff come back with a graphic view of how 400-foot circles separating the adult businesses would change the picture. “I think it’s important we consider all these options,” he said. Bruce Wolf added he wouldn’t want a decision made on a touchy legal issue without the city attorney present. “I have extreme concern for the legal issues involved.”

Robinson said the council would always have a problem maintaining enough legal sites for adult businesses if other types of businesses moved into the overlay zone. “You’re almost condemning that land,” he said. Galvin explained that even another kind of business could legally be considered a potential site. “Everything’s for sale so the site is still available,” Hawkins agreed.

Doug Fenton spoke in support of Robinson’s proposal and questioned why he had to pay a $300 fee to apply for the changes. “He came forward to point out an error and he’s being charged,” Fenton said. While council agreed to take another look at Robinson’s proposal at their next meeting, there was no direction to staff to take another look at the fee. Ely, however, did grumble that the fee seemed contrary to the message from a customer service in-house training session offered by the city earlier in the day.

Blaine’s only adult business, the Blaine Book Company on Peace Portal Drive is claiming to no longer be one and has closed its doors pending a new license application for the location. A license renewal for an adult bookstore was turned down by the city clerk in January because the business had $34,000 in outstanding fines for violations of the adult entertainment ordinance. An appeal of the decision was denied by city manager Gary Tomsic April 4. The company had 30 days to appeal Tomsic’s decision to superior court and did not, according to Galvin.
Blaine Book Company president Christopher Stansfield filed forbankruptcy on behalf of the company xxxx but his father John Stansfield, who owns the building, applied for a license to run a video rental store. The city clerk denied that application, based on Galvin’s inspection of the store. He found the store still had more adult movies that general ones. “There’s a large area for general videos but there are very few racks. In the back it’s a small area but it’s packed,” he said.

The store has been closed for close to three weeks. “For all practical purposes we no longer have an adult bookstore downtown,” said Tomsic

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