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Island County enters fray over nude dancing

Island County may follow the city of Oak Harbor’s lead in dealing with adult entertainment.

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson told the planning director during a Monday meeting that she wanted county staff members to investigate ways to regulate strip clubs.

“We have an opportunity to address what I perceive as a threat and make sure we are prepared,” she said.

Last month, the Oak Harbor City Council approved a trio of laws aimed at regulating adult entertainment. The city took the emergency action after an Oak Harbor woman, Michelle O’Kelley, had approached the city with plans to start a “gentleman’s club.”

Monday, Planning Director Bob Pederson said O’Kelley had also visited the planning department a few times to ask questions about county rules regarding adult entertainment businesses.

Pederson said he looked into the issue and found that the county has no existing regulations governing that type of business.

“It’s sort of a gaping hole,” he said.

Pederson said he and Dave Jamieson, the chief civil deputy in the prosecutor’s office, have asked Oak Harbor officials for their research and ordinances.

“We might want to piggyback on their work,” Pederson said.

O’Kelley said she has looked for suitable locations for an adult entertainment business in both the city and county. She said her plans are “on idle” after the City Council adopted the new rules.

O’Kelley is clearly upset about the city’s actions and the public outcry about the possibility of an adult entertainment venue on the island. In a community with much bigger issues, from drug abuse to poverty, she questions their priorities.

“Everyone is wasting their damn time trying to keep adults clothed,” she said.

Still, she said the vast majority of people she’s talked to support her plans and she hopes to start the business someday.

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