Zoning for adult uses to change
Moorhead and Clay County have moved to add restrictions to their zoning laws limiting where adult businesses can operate. The new regulations would limit adult uses, including X-rated book stores, strip clubs, massage parlors and other such busin...
Moorhead and Clay County have moved to add restrictions to their zoning laws limiting where adult businesses can operate.
The new regulations would limit adult uses, including X-rated book stores, strip clubs, massage parlors and other such businesses, to the city's heavy industrial zones and the county's highway commercial districts.
Officials in Moorhead and Clay County said the changes were not prompted by any businesses planning to open.
They just want to be ready in case that does happen.
"I think it's a proactive step," said Moorhead Councilman Jim Danielson, who sits on both the county and city planning boards.
Jean Coleman, a Minneapolis consultant hired by Clay County to update its zoning ordinance, said addressing adult businesses in zoning laws gives local government greater control of them.
"It's always better to think about it ahead of time," she said.
Moorhead added the new restrictions when it updated its zoning laws last year.
Besides being constricted to land zoned for heavy industrial use, an adult business must be 500 feet from property home to any residence, day care center, school, library, park, church, playground, business with a liquor license or other adult business.
Clay County has written nearly identical restrictions in revisions to its zoning laws expected to be considered by the county board later this summer.
Jeff Schaumann, who was Moorhead's planner when the restrictions were added, said federal and state case law has established adult business as a form of expression covered by the First Amendment.
That means adult businesses get protection other land uses do not, Coleman said.
"We have to approach it differently than we do a single-family residential house. Me living in my house is not a form of expression," she said.
Local governments that do not set aside areas where adult businesses can open run the risk of having no say in the matter, Schaumann said.
"The bottom line is, if you don't allow adult uses to go somewhere in the city, it opens the community up to having an adult business go anywhere it pleases," said Schaumann, who left the city to take a job with a Moorhead development firm earlier this year.
Danielson, who was involved in the revisions to both the city and county zoning codes, said the inclusion of the adult use regulations sparked little debate.
"It wasn't something that resulted in an intensive discussion," he said.
It surprised Otto Schmid, co-administrator for the Minnesota chapter of American Planning Association, the restrictions weren't already in place.
"Considering the size of the area, I'm somewhat surprised they haven't done this before," he said.
Fargo and West Fargo added similar rules to their zoning laws in 1996 and 1987, respectively.
The regulations in those two cities are very similar. They differ from those in Moorhead in Clay County in one main way: the 500-foot setback is 1,250 feet in the North Dakota cities.
Cheryl Palya-Wetch, who tried to stop the Pleasure Palace from opening at 1015 38th St. in Fargo in 2003, said she preferred the larger distance.
"That's just not enough," she said of the 500-foot setback.
Though she once asked the Fargo City Commission to increase it to a mile, she said she is content with 1,250 feet of separation after researching zoning laws in other parts of the country.
"They had it farther away than other cities and towns, and I checked all over the Bible belt," she said of Fargo.
While the Pleasure Palace did open because it fit all the city's requirements, Palya-Wetch said the regulations can help protect a community.
She is glad to hear those restrictions are stretching west.
"They're getting ready, and that's a good thing. They should just make sure they dot all their 'i's and cross all their 't's," she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535