Planning Commission proposes regulations for adult entertainment businesses

The Planning Commission held a public hearing Dec. 15 to gather community input on proposed Zoning Bylaws to mitigate the adverse secondary impacts associated with adult entertainment facilities.

As Chair Jaime Heins explained, such businesses are constitutionally protected under freedom of speech and cannot be banned outright, but cities and towns do have the same authority as they have for other businesses to regulate where and how they may operate based on the potential adverse secondary impacts.

The purpose section of the proposed amendment states that “Restrictions on the location of such facilities are necessary to protect residential neighborhoods, sensitive and vulnerable populations, civic institutions and public gathering places from the adverse secondary impacts associated with adult entertainment facilities including, but not limited to, crime, nuisance, disturbance of public order and indecency, and to protect public health, safety and welfare.”

Heins added that no specific application has been submitted to the Development Review Board for such a business, but noted that there had been a nonspecific inquiry this fall about establishing such a business.

The commissioners reviewed draft language that would add adult entertainment as a conditional use only in the Mixed Use District which runs rather narrowly along both sides of Shelburne Road south from the South Burlington town line to just north of the LaPlatte bridge. In addition, several conditional use review criteria would be added. Among these are:

The impacts of the adult entertainment use must be comparable to a non-adult entertainment use allowed in the district.

The business must not be located within 1,000 feet of an existing school, library, daycare facility, religious facility, public park, or residential zoning district, or within 150 feet of a public right-of-way.

Adult entertainment uses, specifically defined in the bylaws, must be separated from one another by at least 1,000 feet to avoid clustering of such businesses, which would exacerbate adverse secondary impacts.

Adult entertainment use must not have any storefront window, marquee, sign, or other display visible from a public vantage point depicting or portraying specified anatomical areas or specified sexual activities which are defined.

Adult-oriented merchandise, specifically defined in the bylaws, must not be displayed in a location that would be visible from a public vantage point.

Signage must use only “terms and imagery that would be typical and expected for a comparable non-adult entertainment use and appropriate for a general audience.”

Persons under the age of 18 may not be permitted to enter and a prominent, two-foot-by-two-foot sign to that effect must be posted at each entrance.

Such businesses must be appropriately screened from public view.

Several members of the public appeared at the hearing to voice their concerns about the adverse impacts such a business would have, largely focusing on their beliefs that adult entertainment facilities would generally degrade Shelburne’s community character. More specifically, some worried about noise, increased traffic, and the need for additional police due to the business. Heins also submitted for the hearing record emails he received from Shelburne residents expressing similar concerns.

After hearing public testimony and reviewing the proposal, the commission voted to forward the proposal as amended to the Selectboard for its consideration. The Selectboard will also hold a public hearing when it discusses the proposal.

If an application for an adult entertainment business is filed after the Selectboard adopts these Bylaw amendments, the DRB would also hold a public hearing on the application and review the proposal to determine if it met all the conditional use requirements before it made a decision. In addition to the specific criteria, the DRB would review hours of operation, onsite parking to ensure it met the anticipated customer base for the business in order to prevent overflow parking issues in adjacent neighborhoods, safety issues due to increased traffic, impact on town services such as police, and other issues as it would for any business application, to mitigate any adverse secondary impacts.

In other business, the Planning Commission reviewed previously discussed amendments related to sidewalk and path requirements, briefly discussed whether amendments to regulations about Planned Unit Developments in the Rural District should be considered at a later date, were briefed on a recent court decision on signage requirements, and were  informed about a recent population projection developed by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission that projected population growth in the county at just 0.2%.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7pm in the Municipal Center.

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