April 26, 2006 - Oro Valley's idea of economic development doesn't involve lap dances or porn videos.
An ordinance aimed at minimizing the ability of adult businesses such as sex shops and strip clubs to move into Oro Valley was passed by the Oro Valley Town Council April 19.
The council voted unanimously in favor of a set of restrictions that included limiting adult businesses to major commercial developments with a C-2 zoning code. There are only four C-2 zones in Oro Valley, according to Oro Valley community development director Brent Sinclair.
Furthermore, the ordinance only permits one adult business within a 17-acre area, and all such businesses must be 1,700 feet from any school or church. Other restrictions stipulate that any adult business must be well lit with limited landscaping to maximize visibility and discourage loitering.
The new ordinance was inspired in part by the attempt of Fascinations Sensual Shoppes and Superstores, which sells lingerie, sex toys and adult videos, to open a branch last summer at 5757 N. Oracle Road, two miles south of Oro Valley's town limits. Fascinations ultimately abandoned that effort after a construction permit was denied by Pima County.
"After that, (town councilman) Barry Gillaspie and I decided that we should look at the Oro Valley town code and see how our code would stand up to this type of scrutiny like the Pima County code was getting. We found out that our code realistically was outdated and written in a matter that didn't adequately protect the citizens of Oro Valley from the secondary effects of a sexually related business," said Terry Parish, Oro Valley Vice Mayor.
The secondary effects of adult businesses, such as proximate criminal activity and the economic impact on neighboring businesses, has been deemed by the United States Supreme Court as reason enough to allow special regulation of adult businesses, said Town Attorney Melinda Garrahan. However, she said the town government couldn't prohibit adult businesses from setting up shop in Oro Valley.
"Certain kinds of activity fall under First Amendment protection," Garrahan said. "Case law has said that nude dancing is a form of free speech."
In creating the ordinance, the town had to balance a desire to put strong restrictions on adult businesses without putting the town in a position where it could potentially lose a lawsuit.
"We feel confident at this point that it's a strong regulation, but within the law," Garrahan said. "You can't make it so restrictive that it is a violation of the First Amendment."
When asked at the April 19 council meeting by councilwoman Paula Abbott if the town could place a cap on the number of adult businesses in Oro Valley, Garrahan said such a cap could put the entire ordinance in jeopardy.
"I have a concern that if you layer on enough things, you might lose your case and your whole code, and then anything could come in," Garrahan said.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Sarah Moore said the town had two basic philosophies to choose from in crafting its zoning code concerning adult businesses: concentration and dispersal. Because the former tended to create a "Red Light District," she felt setting adult businesses apart from each other was more appropriate for Oro Valley.
"What we're trying to do is provide some areas of use so it doesn't look like we are zoning this out completely," Moore said.
Parish said he has worked for a year to help craft an ordinance for Oro Valley that will protect Oro Valley residents from the effects of an adult business.
"Not everyone who goes into those stores are bad people. In fact, the majority aren't. But pedophiles are known to frequent those areas," Parish said.
Parish added that as a protestant Christian he has a moral objection to sex shops and strip clubs.
"My religious belief requires me to oppose something like that," Parish said.