Umatilla Seeks New Regulations for Adult Businesses

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Umatilla Planning Commission
Steve Bunn, owner of Honey Bunnz Hideout, addresses the Umatilla Planning Commission Tuesday night.
PHOTO BY JENNIFER COLTON

Adult businesses were back in the spotlight in Umatilla on Tuesday, but this time, the Umatilla Planning Commission is setting the foundation for new regulations.

The commission is considering changing the city’s zoning ordinance to better regulate what businesses are allowed in each zone. The changes have been spurred by two moratoriums, which prevent any new adult businesses or any marijuana dispensaries from opening in the city for a set amount of time.

Steve Bunn, owner of Honey Bunnz Hideout, an 18-and-older “juice bar,” attended the meeting to discuss concerns the commission had with his adult business and the agreements in its conditional use permit.

Among the topics Bunn and the commission discussed was the fence Bunn erected around the west side of the business. The fence, which provides privacy to the back door, blocks vision to one of the murals painted on the building and proclaims “Honey Bunnz Hideout” in large, bright pink letters.

Bunn said the painting – which he calls a mural, not a sign – serves to help advertise his business because he and the city have been unable to reach an agreement about signage.

“I have to advertise my business, and the city is fighting me on that,” Bunn said, adding people are not having trouble finding the business right now. “If I have no lights and no signs, they’re going to (have trouble).”

The commission recommended Bunn work with city staff to revise the sign and parking issues but said they were primarily concerned with what had been agreed upon in the conditional use permit – regardless of what type of business he operated. When Bunn asked if there was anything they wanted him to work on, the commission replied with a simple answer: keep working with the city and finding solutions.

“I’m glad you’re here and you’re working with us,” Commission Chairman Boyd Sharp said. “This wasn’t intended to be any kind of an attack. This is just a discussion.”

Bunn thanked the commission for the discussion but pointed out multiple times that his requests have resulted in re-evaluation of codes and processes by the city, including the sign ordinance, a moratorium on any new adult businesses and a study of the city’s business regulation system.

“I’m doing nothing wrong but plugging along, but I’m getting cut off everywhere,” Bunn said. “Every time I ask for something, they’re going to redo the code.”

Bunn may be the most recent “adult business” to raise eyebrows in Umatilla, but the city’s lax business regulations are already under review thanks to moratoriums on adult businesses and marijuana dispensaries.

The Umatilla Planning Commission started its discussion on changing the business and zoning regulations Tuesday night. City Planner Bill Searles presented the commission with proposed changes to 100 pages of the city’s zoning ordinance that would including sorting business by zone using codes outlined in the North American Industry Classification System.

“Rather than just focus on the adult businesses, I wanted to kill a few birds with one stone,” Searles said.

Using codes from the NAICS, the commission would decide which types of businesses would be allowed in each zone. Businesses would be prohibited, allowed outright, allowed on a conditional basis or “subject to standards” based on the classification.

Searles said, for example, adult businesses might be “subject to standards” where they would be allowed outright in a general commercial district if they met certain requirements, such as not being within 1,000 feet of a public school or public park.
The distance limitation raised questions about adult businesses from the commissioners.

“So, pretty much the whole part of downtown west of Umatilla River Road to the (Umatilla) river would be excluded under this,” Craig Simmons said.

After consulting the zoning map, Searles agreed, adding it would likely remove the general commercial areas in central McNary as well. Simmons requested a map with circles of exclusion to have a visual representation of the distance from each school and park to reference during the zoning study.

The commissioners agreed to each do “homework” to study the classifications and the types and to write out what they would like to see in each zone. The commission will then meet at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 25 to go over and discuss the zoning types and which classifications of businesses should be allowed in each.

“I think we need to be real clear on each of these zones,” Sharp said. “We need to do our homework then get back together and go through it.”

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