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Oak Harbor’s strip club rules head for final catwalk

Portions of Goldie and Gun Club roads in Oak Harbor may someday become the epicenter of the city’s adult entertainment businesses should any decide to locate in the city.

The Oak Harbor Planning Commission last week unanimously approved a draft of permanent rules regarding the future location of adult-oriented businesses within city limits. The recommendation is set to go before the city council for final review in February.

In response to an application for a strip club, in March of 2010 the city council adopted three interim emergency ordinances that banned public nudity, set in place licensing and regulation requirements and specified where such businesses could be located. But interim ordinances are only temporary and must be replaced by permanent rules.

According to Oak Harbor Development Services Director Steve Powers, U.S. Supreme Court and state court rulings have made it clear that banning adult businesses outright is unconstitutional, but municipalities may establish areas where they can be located.

The emergency provisions set up last year established buffers around sensitive areas, such as schools and churches, which all but eliminated potential sites throughout the city except for three parcels along Goldie and Gun Club roads.

Funneling businesses to only one area is called “concentration zoning.” It’s cheaper to implement, easier to evaluate and offers more control over the total growth of such uses, but studies have shown that it can also result in increased crime, Powers said.

An alternative method of regulating adult businesses, known as “dispersion zoning,” was also studied. It uses buffers of 750 feet around sensitive areas as well, but allows adult businesses to be placed throughout a city. It’s designed to reduce the possibility of creating pocket districts.

It was eliminated as a possibility, however, largely due to the wide dispersal of Oak Harbor’s schools, churches and parks. The large buffers would make it very difficult for adult business to locate anywhere, putting the city in a bind by making it impossible for them to exist and thereby violating constitutional rights established by the courts.

“There would essentially be no commercial land available,” Powers said.

No applications have been filed since the emergency rules were put in place but he said that one or two people have made inquiries.

The permanent rules will likely go before the city council at its Feb. 15 meeting.

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