The City Council on Monday night defeated a proposal to adopt the same zoning regulations that will apply to newly opened sexually oriented businesses in parts of Yellowstone County.
The motion denying the special request passed 9-1, with Councilman Don Jones voting against it.
Among those opposed was Councilman Vince Ruegamer, who said zoning ordinances already on the books — such as the one prohibiting alcohol sales at businesses with nude dancing — have provided adequate controls over adult businesses. He also disputed repeated statements by proponents linking sexually oriented businesses with a rise in criminal activity, such as sexual assaults.
"(Maxwell) said there was no increase around Lockwood or (Shotgun) Willie's," he said. "Who are we going to believe, our sheriff or someone across the state?"
Setting aside questions of morality, Councilwoman Joy Stevens, an attorney, argued the ordinance was poorly worded and would be vulnerable to First Amendment challenges.
"I am really quite upset that this ordinance in this form is before us," Stevens said.
Even those who initially brought the request before the council backed off before the vote, urging the council to use the city's licensing and regulatory powers, not zoning, to restrict the businesses. That would prove more comprehensive while raising revenues to cover enforcement costs.
"I'm really not surprised by this," said Dallas Erickson, a Stevensville activist who fights sexually explicit activity and material across the state. He said that he and concerned residents from Yellowstone County would be bringing proposals to limit the businesses before the council. "That's what this is about — to open the doors and show them the concerns of the public."
Voters in Yellowstone County approved the regulations in a ballot measure on June 6.
The regulations, which will apply only to newly opened businesses in zoned portions of Yellowstone County, will impose a variety of restrictions. Performers in strip clubs will be required to remain at least 9 feet away from spectators. Video viewing booths in adult arcades won't be allowed to have doors, meaning that customers using them must remain visible to the store manager.
A proposed ordinance to limit sexually explicit materials failed in the June 6 vote.