As promised, San Juan County commissioners are taking up zoning in a piecemeal fashion that most likely will result in some unintended — and unpleasant — consequences.
At their May 6 regular meeting, commissioners are scheduled to consider an ordinance regulating adult businesses. A draft of the proposed law would require that businesses such as strip clubs and adult novelty stores be located at least 1,000 feet from similar operations, homes, religious assemblies, libraries, cultural services, childcare centers, community centers, public parks and elementary and secondary schools. The draft would also require background checks for business owners and others involved, building setbacks and licenses for all adult entertainment businesses outside city limits.
Roadside signs would be restricted to the businesses' names with a brief identifier such as "adult bookstore" or "adult cabaret."
Licenses would cost $250 and mandatory renewals $100.
Those regulations make some sense, but what is needed is a comprehensive approach.
In November the commission voted to indefinitely table a proposed land use code that would have provided a blueprint for growth in the county. As we said in a previous editorial, a few loud complaints about overbearing government restrictions buried common sense. We believe the commissioners abdicated their responsibility to lead when they bowed to those unreasonable objections.
The county paid consultants more than $350,000 over the last four years to write a proposal that takes into account a variety of uses and creates a plan for ensuring some harmony among them as businesses are opened or moved and residential areas are established. Zoning also helps counties determine the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars when building the infrastructure required to support such development.
Laying out that plan for growth is the responsibility of our elected officials. Although they should listen to their constituents, they ultimately must make choices based on what is best for the majority.
Instead, their actions were guided by people who appear to be in love with a throwback notion of rugged individualism that thrived when grizzly bears and wolves were an accepted part of the Southwestern landscape. An estimated 38,000 people live in the county now and it is likely that number will increase. It is irresponsible not to have a plan to handle growth in an orderly way.
And the piecemeal approach is not it. Who is going to invest in a dream home that could ultimately be surrounded by scrap yards or mines? And the lack of an overarching plan creates uncertainty that is anathema to commercial investment (except, maybe, for the noisiest and dirtiest businesses). Worse yet, the unequal treatment of businesses inherent in a patchwork approach also opens the county to legal action.
In our story, County Deputy Attorney Doug Echols said the proposed background checks for owners and other associates are required of no other types of businesses.
Ironically, Taboo Show Club owner Jacqueline Ritchie supported the adult business regulations. San Juan County is "growing — progress and all that — maybe it's time for this kind of legislation," she said. That makes more sense than the free-for-all some are demanding.