Fountain Hills has never been thought of as a destination for vice, and the town is acting to keep things that way.
A lack of adult businesses in the town isn’t keeping officials from proposing an ordinance regulating their locations and operations. It’s scheduled to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission later this month. If the commission passes it, the earliest the Town Council could consider the ordinance is Aug. 2, as there are no council meetings in July.
Such ordinances usually are sure-fire sources of controversy. Scottsdale suffered more than a year of turmoil after the City Council passed a law drastically changing how two strip clubs and an adult bookstore could function. The storm subsided last September when voters overwhelmingly overturned the ordinance.
But it’s a different story in Fountain Hills. Town Manager Tim Pickering acknowledges no adult businesses are working to move there. And Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce president Frank Ferrara hasn’t heard of any such plans, either.
So what’s the need for an ordinance?
“Case law over the past few years has strengthened municipal opportunities to regulate the location of (sexually-oriented businesses); our current ordinance does not reflect those changes,” Pickering said in an e-mail.
Former Councilman John Kavanagh shed some light, saying civic leaders years ago questioned whether they needed to tighten zoning laws in case a strip club, adult bookstore or massage parlor wanted to set up shop.
The town received the legal advice that, no, an ordinance wasn’t needed. That was because the only place in town an adult shop could open was on a parcel of land already occupied by the Fountain Hills Sanitary District’s wastewater treatment plant, Kavanagh said.
“So, unless (the district) wanted to sublet, we were pretty confident we wouldn’t have that problem,” said Kavanagh, now a state representative.
But as senior planner Bob Rodgers said in his report to the commission, “Municipalities must be able to demonstrate that reasonable alternative locations are provided for such uses.”
The proposed ordinance would limit adult businesses, with a number of restrictions, to two industrial zoning districts in the town’s southeast corner. For example, an adult business couldn’t open within 300 feet of a boundary of a residential zoning district.
Also contained in the ordinance are strict limitations on the operations of strip clubs and adult bookstores. Lap dances would be prohibited, as there would be a minimum distance of 4 feet between customers and nude or semi-nude employees — the requirement Scottsdale rejected.
That would effectively prevent any such establishment from opening, because lap dances are at the core of strip clubs’ business model. Typically, dancers pay the club for the right to dance, and then make their money on lap-dance tips.
Violations would be Class I misdemeanors, with penalties up to six months in jail and fines of $2,500 for a person and $20,000 against the business. In bookstores, video arcades — small booths where patrons watch adult movies in private — would be forbidden as the ordinance requires employees have unobstructed views to all parts of the establishment.