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County Board debates adult entertainment zoning

A rarity happened during Tuesday’s Pierce County Board of Supervisors meeting: a debate ensued.

While county board meetings are known for resolutions and ordinances to be “rubber-stamped” (i.e. approved without any discussion), the issue of zoning for adult entertainment uses resulted in a civil debate that lasted nearly 20 minutes.

Land Management Director Andy Pichotta explained the land management committee felt a new classification for adult entertainment uses was needed, as it should be a conditionally permitted use in an Industrial District. As a result, they approved amending the county code, which established new setbacks for adult entertainment uses--1,320 feet from schools, churches, licensed daycares and parks; 500 feet from residential zoning districts; and 300 feet from off-site residences.

It was brought to them by the Town of Rock Elm, who at the time had three establishments which were closed and their board members were concerned an adult entertainment club would come and they would have no say (those establishments have since been reopened without any adult entertainment clubs).

The ordinance was brought before the Finance and Personnel Committee on Aug. 5 and it failed. Tuesday’s meeting was the first time it went in front of the county board.

Supervisors Michael Kahlow and Jon Aubart were two of the strongest opponents to the measure. Kahlow felt the ordinance which was written was “trouble” and wanted it strengthened in case they would be sued.

“I clearly don’t support it,” Aubart said. “This is a creation to a solution that doesn’t exist.”

Debate then focused on whether or not this was an issue of zoning or licensing and which department should handle it (Board of Health, Land Management, Law Enforcement). Pichotta was asked if he heard anything about towns on the matter. He replied if more than half of the towns voiced their opinion against, and he heard from none, Land Management wouldn’t even have brought it in front of their committee.

After further discussion, Kahlow brought a motion, asking for the measure to be resent to committee. Apparently, Kahlow and Aubart’s pleas struck a chord, as fellow Supervisors Robert Mercord, Ken Snow, Dan Reis, Dale Auckland, Greg Place and Jim Ross agreed. Meanwhile, LeRoy Peterson, Scott and Cecil Bjork, Ruth Wood, Mel Pittman, Jerry Kosin, Ron Bartels and Dean Bergseng disagreed, leaving the measure tied at 8-8.

All eyes then turned to Chairman Jeff Holst, who for the first time since being named chair was asked to break a tie. Holst felt since the measure went through the committee, it shouldn’t need to again, so he voted against. It means the ordinance survived and will likely be rehashed again during its final reading Tuesday, Sept. 24.  

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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