Totally Chocolate gets a porn buffer

Published on Thu, May 30, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Totally Chocolate gets a porn buffer

By Meg Olson

Totally Chocolate owner Jeff Robinson got Blaine city council to meet him part way, gaining a 300 foot setback from any adult businesses that might locate in the adult entertainment zone next to his property but not the 500 feet he had asked for.

When Robinson’s proposal to change the adult entertainment zoning overlay was before council May 13, they asked that staff look at reducing the 500-foot separation between businesses to see if it would make the 500-foot buffer Robinson had asked for feasible. At the May 28 council meeting city planner Terry Galvin told them that putting adult businesses closer together would mean more sites could fit in the overlay zone and Robinson could have a 500-foot buffer. “The idea of more sites doesn’t thrill me,” said council member Marsha Hawkins. “I don’t want more opportunities for adult businesses in our community.”

City attorney Jon Sitkin cautioned council members that every time they changed the ordinance they could potentially weaken it. “ Nine months ago, after a lot of study and deliberation, council decided ten sites for adult businesses was appropriate,” he said. “I would suggest you not deviate from that. You built this ordinance on a foundation. If you change the foundation too much you have a different house, and in that case I’d rather you stepped back and redesigned the whole thing.”

Robinson said the initial ordinance discriminated against his business, the only one abutting the overlay. “Adult business was moved out of downtown to protect downtown businesses and it was moved next to mine,” he said. He felt that, as the ordinance required adult business to be 1,000 feet from parks churches, residential areas and other public gathering places, businesses, where people gather to work, should get at least some of the same protection. “it doesn’t seem fair to protect people at church but not when they get off work at 3 a.m.” The existing overlay rules only allow for a 40-foot setback and a fence between existing businesses and new adult entertainment ones.

Sitkin said numbers chosen in the original ordinance weren’t taken from thin air . “Studies have shown that distance from public places is key in limiting the deleterious effects of adult entertainment on a community,” he said.

Several council members wanted to make sure any action they took would not diminish the defensibility of the city’s adult entertainment laws if an adult business challenged them as infringing on first amendment rights. “Tinker carefully,” Sitkin said. “Changing distances will affect how you can move the modules of viable sites around.” For the city to legally ban adult businesses everywhere else it needs to maintain a supply of sites where these businesses can locate if it is to stay on the right side of freedom of expression laws.

Galvin said that a 300-foot buffer for Totally Chocolate, which his department was recommending, would maintain the ten potential sites now in the overlay, while a 500-foot buffer would cut it to seven.

“If we start tinkering with this too much we bring the validity of the ordinance into question and we don’t want to reopen the whole basket,” said mayor Dieter Schugt. Other council members agreed and voted to unanimously accept the staff recommendation.
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