Clark County OKs temporary ban on strip clubs

Moratorium will give staff time to investigate potential further steps

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

Updated: March 5, 2014, 9:12 PM

 

Clark County is laying it bare: It wants to prevent strip clubs from setting up shop in unincorporated areas.

At least for the time being.

Commissioners approved an emergency resolution Tuesday temporarily banning businesses where nude men or women dance. It places a 60-day moratorium on the county's ability to receive or process applications for that type of adult business.

The resolution stems from an inquiry the county's community planning department received in late February about whether strip clubs were allowable in certain parts of the county. There are currently no strip clubs anywhere in Clark County.

"In this case, they were asking about the ability to locate nude dancing in Clark County," said Chris Horne, the county's chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

From the county's end, the ordinance is a preventative measure to ensure no paperwork crosses the planning department's desk.

Based on the county's vested rights doctrine, as long as a business application meets the letter of the law, it has the right to move forward. Vested rights disallow a jurisdiction — in this case Clark County — from passing a law prohibiting a type of development after an application has been filed.

The temporary moratorium will give the county time to investigate possibly further prohibiting strip clubs or keeping the existing code restrictions in place. One question for the county moving forward, Horne said, was whether more restrictive code language would still be constitutional.

County commissioners will give direction to staff on the matter and there will be a public hearing. A hearing has not been scheduled.

There are already restrictions on where adult businesses can be located under the county's current code, said Marty Snell, director of the county's Community Development Department. Similar to the state's guidelines on where recreational marijuana facilities can take shape, the restrictions place geographical parameters on strip clubs.

It's also similar to what's allowed in Vancouver. In that city, a strip club would be classified as adult entertainment and allowed in certain zoning districts, provided minimum spacing requirements from sensitive uses are met. Those include setbacks from schools, religious institutions, day care facilities, parks and residentially-zoned property.

Even with the temporary moratorium in place, there's no guarantee the county will update its 24-year-old code. The county could decide it's sufficient, Snell said, and not change it.

Commissioners said they wanted to proceed with caution and address local, state and federal laws before drafting more restrictive code language. That comes even though some county commissioners expressed a desire to ensure they had control over what the code says.

"It's truly something new to Clark County," Commissioner Tom Mielke said. "And I think not having something in place, to accept or reject it, that we could be in some kind of situation if somebody was to apply for that (type of) permit."

County passes emergency ordinance to prohibit development of strip clubs