The Gossips of Rivertown--a blog of news and commentary exclusively about Hudson

Monday, August 18, 2008

Adult Use Law

Some of you have been very concerned about the adult use law that the Common Council was scheduled to vote on this evening, August 19. The vote on this legislation was postponed for reasons having to do with SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review), but the public hearing was held. The Council will to voting on this legislation at its formal meeting in September.

In response to some of your concerns, let me first assure you that this law will not alter the existing zoning in the First Ward or anywhere else in the city. Areas that are currently zoned residential will remain residential. Areas currently zoned commercial will remain commercial. The only areas impacted by this amendment to Hudson's zoning law are the areas that are zoned industrial. In the current zoning, which has been in place for decades, the industrial zone in the First Ward begins on the south side of Cross Street and extends across the South Bay to the southern boundary of the City. When we adopt the draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), this will change--for the better for First Ward residents. The zoning revisions that are part of the LWRP greatly reduce the size of the industrial zone in our ward.

The adult use law, which is an amendment to the City's zoning ordinance, prohibits adult entertainment venues from locating anywhere in Hudson except in the areas that are zoned industrial. The law also imposes a further restriction that prohibits adult venues from locating within 1,000 feet of any church, school, public park, or residential neighborhood. This is a significant restriction and a significant distance. A mile is 5,280 feet. In the First Ward, according to my calculations, 1,000 feet from Waterfront Park, from the south end of Hudson Terrace, from the houses on Tanners Lane and Montgomery Street consigns adult entertainment to a location beyond Basilica Industria, beyond where Front Street ends, to the spot now used as the staging area for the Flag Day fireworks. Not a likely place for such a business to locate, since there are no existing buildings and no water or sewer lines.

Some people believe that if the City designates an area for adult entertainment venues we are somehow welcoming or paving the way for such establishments to locate in Hudson. Nothing is further from the intent of this legislation. Without this law, there is nothing in Hudson code to prevent an adult bookstore, adult entertainment venue, or a "sex shop" from opening in any part of Hudson's commercial district. It is not possible to ban such businesses from Hudson altogether. There is extensive case law establishing their right to exist under the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression. It is typical for responsible city governments, therefore, to designate specific areas for such establishments, where they will have the least possible adverse impact on the quality of life and economic health of the city as a whole. Failing to do this leaves the entire city vulnerable, which is the situation that Hudson is in right now.

I believe that zoning for adult entertainment is necessary for Hudson. Back in the early 1990s, there was talk of an adult bookstore opening somewhere in Hudson. The Common Council at the time passed a year-long moratorium on such businesses, but when the moratorium expired, the Council failed to take the next step of putting zoning in place to control the situation. Consequently, in 2006, the Lone Wolf--totally naked girls pole dancing--opened on Seventh Street Park. The Lone Wolf was shut down on a technicality, and it would probably still be operating if it had been better capitalized. The city attorneys at the time determined that turning what had been a restaurant into a strip club constituted a change of use which required a site plan review by the Planning Commission. The owner of the Lone Wolf was cited and fined for operating without a valid permit. Rather than deal with the fines that would accrue daily if he continued to operate, he decided to shut down and leave Hudson.

We can't count on this happening again. Without an adult use law in place, Maxie's could reopen as a strip club, and the city government could do nothing to prevent it.

I am committed to improving the quality of life in Hudson. In the fifteen years I have lived in the 200 block of Allen Street, I have witnessed and been part of the positive changes that have taken place in our First Ward neighborhoods. It is certainly not my intention to do anything to jeopardize or reverse that progress. I believe that the adult use law is necessary and equitable and limits to the fullest extent legally possible the areas where such businesses can locate, and I support it. This legislation is necessary to protect our city and our quality of life.