Town eyes restricting adult businesses


April 12, 2023

While historic preservation is a major concern of the Town of La Conner Planning Commission and planning staff are intent on fending off any future character-changing developments that may arise.

Adult businesses locating here is one.

Town planner Michael Davolio and Assistant Planner Ajah Eills have repeatedly cited court decisions ruling those businesses can be regulated but only if specific parameters are on the books prior to permits being sought.

Without regulation beforehand, adult business proposals must be treated the same as other enterprises.

Courts have upheld first amendment protections of self-expression, said Eills, and thus outright bans of adult venues are not an option. Zoning rules can limit where adult businesses can be sited in town.

“Our goal,” Eills told the Weekly News following a commission meeting last week, “is to make sure we can protect minors from the adverse effects of adult businesses.”

The Town is looking at establishing buffer zones between 300 and 1,000 feet of residential areas and the school campus, which would significantly reduce potential locations for an adult business to open.

“We’re lucky,” said Eills, “that Michael has a background with this when it comes to zoning and case law.”

Eills said the Town, based on state law, will require managers of and entertainers at adult businesses to undergo thorough industry-related training, including how to identify sex trafficking victims.

“The Town would be able to regulate on top of all that,” said Eills, “to make sure everybody who works in town is safe.”

The push to put adult business restrictions on the books comes as the commission undertakes the lengthy process of updating the comprehensive plan.

Commissioners are exploring means of further engaging residents and business owners through a public participation program. They discussed that goal last week.

Eills shared a preliminary plan for a town-wide doorbell hanger that will provide information about the comp plan and how to navigate the Town website, plus an invitation to fill out a community priorities survey.

“Public engagement,” she insisted, “is definitely something to be encouraged.”


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