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Town approves moratorium pausing adult business sitings


April 19, 2023

The Town of La Conner won’t be caught with its pants down while drafting rules regulating adult businesses.

Its Town Council last Tuesday unanimously adopted a six-month emergency moratorium on development applications within commercial, commercial transition and residential zones while controls addressing adult-oriented businesses are enacted.

The action stems any attempt to locate here before specific regulations are adopted.

“The moratorium,” planner Michael Davolio said, “will address anything that might come up in the interim.”

Restrictions can be enforced when on the books, Davolio has emphasized. Lacking them, permits for adult businesses are treated like other commercial ventures courts have ruled in First Amendment freedom of expression cases.

“I recently received a telephone call from someone interested in opening an adult oriented business,” Town Administrator Scott Thomas confirmed. “I don’t know what it’s about. I don’t think I want to know. But now seems to be the time to address this.”

Thomas, the Town’s attorney, composed the five-page moratorium ordinance.

The moratorium’s purpose is “to allow the Town to continue the process of analyzing the issue of adult concession uses without the possibility that applicants will flood the Town with applications for development under the existing codes.

Council voted to expand the Town Emergency Management Commission to include an alternate able to vote when a panelist is absent. Jamie Throgmorton was confirmed as alternate.

Council agreed to residents Linda Talman and William Smith request to keep the Center Street apartment project a standing meeting agenda item.

“It’s not time to take Center Street off the formal agenda,” Talman said.

The controversial development was approved by Hearing Examiner David Lowell on appeal. There have been no recent updates on its status.

Thomas promoted a survey seeking input on public priorities has been loaded onto the Town website. Results will help the Town develop a strategic plan and assist in the budget process.

Councilmember MaryLee Chamberlain announced three probable Council Communications Committee public forum events this year. One will be held in conjunction with the Planning Commission and focus on community visioning. Another is being planned as a come-and-go session designed to attract a cross-section of La Conner area shareholders.

Chamber Director Mark Hulst said last month’s “Murder Mystery” event drew participants from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland and between 200 and 250 people stopped by at the Chamber office. There was a positive economic ripple effect. “I know we put people in hotels, restaurants and stores,” he said.

Councilmember Rick Dole said the fun factor also came into play as folks tried to solve the mystery.

“As I was walking around,” Dole quipped, “I kept getting asked if I was the murderer.”

Turns out, he was framed.

“Lisa Judy,” Hulst confirmed, “was the culprit this year.”

Hulst noted that a couple dozen people a day are calling asking about tulip blooms.

Town Fire Chief Aaron Reinstra said the department’s annual Pioneer Park Easter Egg Hunt was a success, noting, “The kids picked up about 2,000 eggs in about five minutes.”

The St. Patrick’s Day Dance fundraiser cleared enough profit to buy eggs, he said, though, “We ended up buying plastic eggs because the cost of real eggs is so high right now.”

Councilmember Mary Wohleb, a founder of the Skagit Valley Clean Energy Co-Operative, announced the co-op’s Solar Jam May 13 at Maple Hall. It will include solar education presentations and blues artist Nick Vigarino and the A-Town Big Band.

Now that promises to be the kind of adult entertainment for which neither a moratorium nor restrictive ordinance will be necessary.

With Mayor Ramon Hayes visiting family in Florida, Dole chaired the hour-long meeting.


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