Residents hope to ban adult businesses

Minimum distance proposed for schools, rec centres

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:43 pm

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Owners of adult entertainment businesses might soon have a hard time finding a place in Okotoks.

A bylaw suggesting a 200-metre distance between adult-oriented businesses and those with conflicting interests passed first reading in the fall and the Town is now seeking public feedback before it is presented for second reading this month.

As it is written now, the bylaw would require adult businesses, such as casinos, smoke shops and adult entertainment stores, to maintain a buffer zone between various facilities including schools, daycares, recreation facilities and religious institutions.

The bylaw is in response to public complaints regarding a smoke shop that opened last year next to Sylvan Learning Centre, Big Rock School, and Okotoks Montessori school – facilities all frequented by children.

Sharlene Brown, owner of Okotoks Montessori, said that parents of children at the preschool were “outraged” when the smoke shop opened, and have been concerned about the impacts on the school.

“We did have an arrest that our students witnessed the first week,” she said. “We’ve had a few times where we’ve called the police asking for assistance with a person who looks spaced-out.”

But despite the problems it has incurred, Brown disagrees with the proposed distance, as she said Okotoks isn’t large enough to find adequate space for adult businesses if they have to abide by a 200-metre restriction.

“I think 50 metres would have been more than enough,” she said. “It’s not fair to a business, and it needs to be somewhere. I’m not going to take that away from a business because I’m a business too, but I think there’s not enough places in Okotoks.”

The original information that was presented to council offered three options: 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres.

Okotoks development officer Colleen Thome said those numbers were based off of what was taking place in other cities. After viewing maps of the various distances, council directed them to pursue the 200-metre distance.

“Based on the way the bylaw is written to date, the businesses are only allowed in the I1-S district located east and north of Costco,” Thome said.

But concern was also voiced about the potential of inadvertently creating a “red-light district” by forcing all of the businesses together. Council noted that it may be necessary to also include minimum distancing between other adult businesses.

“That comment came out in public consultation, so council will take a look at all of the comments they have received and make a decision on whether they would like to amend it even further,” Thome said.

An open house was held on April 16 for residents to voice their opinions on the bylaw, and Thome said most of the people who came don’t want adult entertainment businesses in Okotoks at all.

“Majority of the people who attended indicated that they would rather see council prohibit adult entertainment uses rather than regulate them,” she said.

Montessori School owner Brown said that the idea of banning adult entertainment uses altogether is ridiculous.

“It’s part of our culture, we need to have what other towns have,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to make it worse, it didn’t make any other town worse. I don’t think they should be anywhere near a school, but other than that I think it’s fine.”

Residents will have another opportunity to voice their concerns at a public hearing on May 12 at 7 p.m. before council makes its decision.


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