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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Indio reviews its adult business policy

Indio's population boom is attracting new furniture and grocery stores - and sexually oriented businesses that see money in numbers.
Owners of a "gentlemen's club" and a lingerie store have recently expressed interest in coming to Indio - one to downtown, said Mark Wasserman, assistant to the city manager.

The City Council on Wednesday will consider an emergency 45-day moratorium that would keep such businesses from opening in the city until its adult-oriented business ordinance is reviewed and revamped, if necessary.

Some sexually oriented businesses should be kept away from churches and schools, residents say.

"Whatever they decide, I hope they don't put it next to any residential. That stuff brings in bad elements," said longtime Indio resident Pat Granados.

The current ordinance allows for sexually oriented businesses in industrial park zones. Currently, there are no such businesses in Indio, and no official plans or licenses have been submitted.

"We cannot keep them from doing business, but we can regulate them from where to do business," said Mayor Gene Gilbert.

"Personally, I would not want to see them downtown Miles Avenue. I don't want to see them next to a school or a church."

U.S. Supreme Court rulings have protected adult-oriented businesses under the First Amendment right of free expression. Cities are not allowed to ban such businesses, but can dictate where they operate.

Gilbert is not alone.
Several Indio residents are glad to hear the city wants to review the policy.

If longtime resident Lucille Cavanaugh, 86, had her way, sexually oriented businesses would be prohibited altogether.

"Whether they're selling sex material or videos or books - I don't want to see any of it."

Cavanaugh remembers the 1930s, when Indio had a "red light" district downtown with brothels and cabarets.

Granados also remembers some type of sexually oriented businesses in the downtown area.

While no sexually oriented businesses are currently in Indio, several are located in Cathedral City and one in Coachella.

Wasserman said the city's desire to impose the moratorium is not intended to impede on rights, but to ensure the location of the businesses will not adversely affect the city or its residents.

According to a city staff report submitted by community development director Steve Copenhaver, adverse effects of sexually oriented businesses include: " increased crime, downgrading of property values, urban blight, downgrading of quality of life in the adjacent area prostitution, pandering, exposing minors to sexually explicit materials, possession and sale of controlled substances, and violent crimes against persons and property."

Valley strip-club owners could not be reached for comment.

The current ordinance was approved in 1994, Wasserman said. Since that time, the city has seen explosive growth - it is the largest and fastest-growing city in the valley, boasting more than 66,000 residents


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