City considers zoning porn out of downtown.

Published on Thu, May 10, 2001 by Meg Olson

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City considers zoning porn out of downtown.

By Meg Olson

Blaine city council has given staff the green light to zone a ‘red-light district’ for the city, at least as far as blue-movie houses and short-time motels go. It may be the price of getting Blaine’s last remaining adult entertainment business out of downtown.

“We are extricating the adult entertainment business from the downtown core,” said planning and community development director Terry Galvin. “In order to do that we need to find another location they can move to. We are required by law to provide a location for present and future adult businesses. We cannot legally disallow their use within city limits.”

The area being proposed is a 35-acre triangle bounded by Yew Avenue to the west, Pipeline Road to the north and backing on Odell Road businesses to the east. It is now zoned for manufacturing. The new ordinance would allow adult entertainment as a conditional use, which would mean every applicant would have to go through a public review process. “Adult entertainment will be the only commercial activity allowed in that zone, isolating it from other commercial activity,” Galvin said. Adult businesses would also need to be 500 feet apart in the zone and be shielded from nearby streets and development by landscaping buffers.

Proposed new zoning would prohibit adult entertainment businesses in all other zones. Existing adult businesses would have six months to move once the ordinance is adopted. Galvin said the Seattle law firm advising the city felt the measures being proposed were legally defensible and other communities had successfully taken similar steps to counter secondary effects of adult businesses.

The only business the proposed ordinance would apply to is the Blaine Book Company on Peace Portal Drive. City manager Gary Tomsic said moving the store was the most significant obstacle to revitalizing Blaine’s downtown. “As long as that business sits there as a sentinel advertising our community, it will be difficult to do anything else,” he told a May 7 council of the whole workshop. He said several studies on downtown revitalization and tourism development have pointed to the bookstore as an obstacle to economic improvement for the area.

Police chief Bill Elfo also cited public health and safety concerns. “I’d rather have it out there where people go for a purpose – that purpose – rather than downtown where people bump into what comes out the door,” he said.

Council members squirmed at the idea of creating a zone specifically for a use they want to discourage in the city, and pointed out drawbacks to putting it where staff is proposing. “Pipeline Road is the shortest route for the kids to get from the school to the ballfield,” John Liebert said. “I’m wondering if adult entertainment businesses will coexist with an expanding airport,” Mike Myers added.

“I don’t want to see this as planning for an adult entertainment facility,” Galvin said. “I don’t think the community wants that. The rules don’t say you have to want adult entertainment businesses. You just need to set the minimum standards.” He said the city had no intention of encouraging adult businesses to move into the area.

Looking at alternative locations for the adult entertainment overlay zone, specifically an area near the city’s southern limit, bordered by Portal Way and the freeway, council members found as many if not more drawbacks. Galvin said as staff develops a recommendation, they will develop an analysis of alternatives.

Council member Ken Ely said his main concern was that the matter not land in court, as have all the other steps the city has taken to limit adult business. “Let’s make sure we have the most legally viable approach and let’s go for it,” he said. “I don’t want to be so on the edge we’ll be snagged in court for three years.”

Council members agreed that the benefit of having a main street free of adult entertainment venues was worth the risks of setting up a new zone for them. Galvin said the process of developing the new zoning was still in its initial stages. His next step will be to meet this week with the two owners of the property proposed for the overlay. Following that, there will be a series of public meetings before council is asked to decide on the ordinance.

“This is a classic case of a decision that has to be made by the community through a public process,” he said. “If there’s a tremendous amount of backlash we’re going to come back and rethink this.”

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