Umatilla’s residents sounded off Tuesday night in favor of an ordinance that would place a moratorium on adult businesses.
If adopted, the ordinance would prohibit any new adult businesses – or expansion of existing adult businesses – for 120 days. The ordinance defines adult businesses as one which limits its patrons to those at least 18 years of age and a “substantial or significant” portion of the business emphasizes nudity and/or sexual activity.
At the Umatilla City Council meeting, 14 Umatilla residents spoke in favor of the moratorium.
“I think we’ve had enough of these kinds of businesses in Umatilla,” Dewey Tegland said. “We’re the laughing stock of the area. We’ve had enough. My opinion is that we should put a permanent moratorium (and) the ones that are here should be run out and disbanded.”
Other residents focused on the location of the adult businesses. The four mentioned – Pandora’s Box Smoke Shop, Honey Bunnz Hideout, Night Moves Gentleman’s Club (currently nonoperational), and The Riverside Sports Bar and Lounge – are all on Sixth Street, Umatilla’s main street.
The businesses are all within walking distance of the joint campus of Umatilla High School and Clara Brownell Middle School: The Riverside Sports Bar and Lounge, 0.3 miles; Honey Bunnz Hideout, 0.2 miles; Night Moves Gentleman’s Club, 0.1 miles; and Pandora’s Box, 500 feet.
“If you think that any business is better than no business, think again,” David Lougee said, describing a couple who opted not to move to Umatilla because downtown is not “family friendly.”
“I love this town, and I hate to see it being ruined by immorality,” Marilyn Reiner said. “I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard because we love God and we love our children.”
The only testimony against the moratorium came from Becky Straus, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. Straus submitted her testimony in print and did not attend the meeting.
“If a local government seeks to regulate the location of a business, however, based only on the content of what it displays or sells, then that regulation is a violation of the business’ right to free expression under the Oregon Constitution,” she wrote.
Straus also said, “Oregonians do not want the government deciding what we can read, see or hear. Passage of this ordinance would be in violation of these principals and of this constitutional provision and it could expose the city to a legal challenge.”
Umatilla City Manager Bob Ward reiterated previous statements that the moratorium is a temporary measure to give the city time to collect feedback and draft new business regulations. Those regulations would also take into account the city’s existing moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. Neither moratorium represents a ban on any affected businesses but does prevent any new establishments from opening during the time frame.
The council will vote on whether to adopt the moratorium during its next meeting, Sept. 16.
In other business:
• The city introduced Nanci Sandoval as the new city recorder.
• The council and city staff discussed a quarterly newsletter to be mailed to Umatilla residences.
• An ordinance approving a trade of county land for road maintenance was approved. The ordinance will now go before the Umatilla County commissioners this month, and if approved, will move an undeveloped parcel of land on Fifth Street to the city in exchange for the city taking over maintenance of Roxbury Road, Bud Draper Road and Beach Access Road.
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