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City moving ahead regulations related to adult businesses

Deciding to act instead of reacting, city officials are working to amend the city’s zoning regulations regarding massage parlors and adult businesses.

The Washington Planning Board is a part of that effort. During its meeting last week, the board reviewed the proposed regulations, which would have to be approved by the City Council. In September 2017, the council asked the board to research and develop standards for massage parlors and adult businesses within the city limits.

One of the challenges it faced was defining different types of massage parlors and crafting specific rules pertaining to the operation of those different types. Three therapeutic massage parlors are located in downtown Washington.

The board continued its work on the matter last week. John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural resources, told the board the city has not received any requests to open adult businesses, but the city wants to have rules governing such businesses in case such a request is received.

Under the proposed regulations, a therapeutic massage parlor would need a license to operate and its health massage (and bodywork) therapists would have to be licensed by the state to perform such therapy. Employees would be required to be at least 21 years old. Patrons must be at least 21 years old to receive such therapy.

A health massage and bodyworks therapy business would be allowed in the city’s business historic, general business and office and institutional districts as a permitted use with special developmental standards.

The proposed regulations pertaining to an adult business defines such a business as an adult bookstore, adult movie theaters, adult live entertainment venues or massage parlors. However, adult businesses are not limited to those listed. An adult business would require a special-use permit, which would be issued by the city’s Board of Adjustment, and be allowed in the city’s heavy industrial and light industrial zoning districts. The special-use permit, which could include specific conditions, would be good for one year and must be renewed annually.

The proposed rules require that windows, doors, openings, entries and other similar items be covered, screened or treated so that views into the interior of the business are not possible from any public or semi-public area, street or way. An adult business must be at least 500 feet from residential districts, churches, parks, playground, school, library or areas where large number of children regularly travel or congregate.

The proposed regulations require an adult business to have a license issued by the city and operate only from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Employees and customers must be at least 21 years old.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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