Limits coming for adult businesses
Okotoks: Town considering buffer zones for schools, playgrounds
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 09, 2013 06:00 am
Adult oriented businesses such as strip clubs, smoke shops or casinos could face strict limits to where they would be able to set up shop in Okotoks.
Town council passed first reading of a bylaw last month establishing buffer zones between adult businesses and child-related facilities like schools, daycares and playgrounds.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said the Town is looking to ensure businesses they deem incompatible with facilities where children are present are not in close proximity.
“Having been a teacher in this town for 33 years I know that people are very concerned when certain land uses are put next to institutions where their kids attend school or daycare,” he said.
The bylaw will go out for public consultation to get feedback from residents and businesses, likely in the new year. The Town will also do a legal review of the bylaw to look at other potential options.
The issue arose earlier this year after a Smokers Corner opened next to the Okotoks Montessori, Sylvan Learning Centre and Big Rock School. If approved, the bylaw would not affect the Smokers Corner because it opened before the changes were considered by the Town.
The bylaw would establish definitions for what constitutes an adult entertainment business, to include adult video stores, love shops, smoke shops and casinos. It also differentiates between legitimate massage therapy businesses and body rub centres appealing to more adult-oriented inclinations.
Precise setback distances haven’t been defined, but the Town looked at three options, 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres.
If a 200-metre setback was approved, it would largely limit the locations adult businesses could open in town to either the Cornerstone shopping area or the Southbank Business Park.
However, Okotoks development officer Colleen Thome said even the Cornerstone shopping centre may not be appropriate and the Southbank Business Park would likely be the only place such businesses could be located.
The bylaw also includes a provision that would ban childcare facilities within the same distance of an adult-oriented business.
As such, if the bylaw was approved and an adult business was to open in Cornerstone, Thome said it would mean daycares or other such businesses likely wouldn’t be able to open in the area.
“If you allowed them in the principle shopping areas, then you would be restricting the ability to provide other services that cater to families within those same areas,” she said.
The bylaw does not include liquor stores.
Thome said the number of liquor stores in Okotoks would likely prevent childcare facilities from opening in a number of areas in town, if the proposed rules were to apply to them.
“There are already so many of them in the commercial areas in town that if the reciprocity clause were applied, you would not be able to have a child oriented use in pretty much any of those shopping areas,” she said.
The owner of the Okotoks Montessori School supports the idea of creating a buffer between schools and adult-oriented businesses.
“For every day home, daycare, schools, for us, that’s huge,” said Sharlene Brown.
She said a 100 meter setback would be fair for both childcare facilities and for adult-oriented businesses.
“We have our boundaries and they have theirs,” said Brown.
She said the Town shouldn’t wait to pass the bylaw to make the rules clear to everyone.
“The sooner the better, for both sides,” said Brown.