Zoning board recommends denial for area strip club
by Dennis Sharkey
The Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial to a proposed strip club last week, but warned there is trouble ahead.
“I think the citizens of Jefferson County should understand there’s no quick, easy fix to just saying that you can blanketly deny these type of operations in the county per say wholesale,” Commission board member Paul Johnson, rural Perry, told the audience.
Johnson’s comments came after a 30-minute closed session with attorney Patrick B. Hughes. In the past two meetings board members have spent about 90 minutes in closed session with Hughes discussing the issue of a proposed strip club just outside the city limits of Meriden on K-4 Highway.
“It’s clear this issue has generated a lot of conflict and concern by most of Jefferson County,” Johnson said. “The reality is given the precedent and the status of the First Amendment with these types of clubs there are some limits to what the county can do to deny this per se.
“There has to be an informed deliberate discussion about placement of these establishments if they are going to come to this county,” he added.
A week prior to the meeting County Commission Chairman Richard Malm questioned Planning and Zoning Director Eloise Tichenor about why the issue was not addressed when the county updated zoning regulations.
Tichenor said the issue was discussed but no concrete specifics were ever written into the regulations.
Commission Board Member Darrell Hammond, Meriden, read the motion that lasted nearly 30 minutes in which he outlined the reasons for denial. Hammond made sure to point out that the reasons for denial centered around land use and not the type of entertainment that the club will feature.
Hammond also said the issues this conditional use permit has brought are out of the scope of what board members are normally tasked to do.
“The members of the planning commission are not specifically equipped to make recommendations on such matters,” Hammond said in his motion.
The club’s operator, Zach Snyder, rural Sarcoxie Township, in his application has stated his operation will feature a bar and grill with an adult entertainment club separate with a secured entrance. Snyder contends that patrons will have to have a membership to enter the club that requires a background check.
Among the reasons Hammond listed were parking concerns, a lack of a plan for busses, trucks and other large vehicles, occupancy size and logistics for deliveries.
Hammond said a May 2010 study by the Kansas Department of Transportation is irrelevant concerning parking because the size of the building has been expanded by more than 2,000 square feet since that study.
Hammond also shot holes in the many studies submitted by Snyder’s attorney outlining that adult entertainment clubs do not have negative effects on the surrounding community. Hammond said most of the studies were conducted in urban areas and none involve rural areas or small towns.
“While some of the criticism may have some merit, they are not a comprehensive rebuttal of evidence as a whole for the central point here that there is a real and material risk for increased criminal activity as a result of the proposed land use,” Hammond said.
In his motion Hammond also conceded that county commissioners may have a tough legal battle ahead and may be forced into approval.
Hammond listed conditions the Planning and Zoning Board would like to see attached to the conditional use permit if it is approved.
Conditions would limit the number of occupants to 174 and limit the hours to no later than 4 a.m. In addition no alcohol could be served 90 minutes prior to closing.
Snyder would be required to submit a revised plan that would address parking and some of the other parking issues listed in the denial.
Conditions would put restrictions on what entertainers could do and would require the club to put up screening on the west side of the property.
One condition listed drew some opposition on the board. Hammond listed a condition that would require the holder of the permit to purchase any property within 1,500 feet of the club at appraised value if the property owner gives notice within 90 days.
Board member Matt Scherer, Grantville, made a motion to remove that condition but it died because of a lack of a second by another board member.
The issue will now move to the county commissioners. If enough property owners in the area surrounding the club protest, the application will require a 3-0 vote by commissioners for approval.
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