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Dance hall regulations adopted

Last night (Monday) the Sunnyside City Council voted to amend the city's cabaret ordinance. The amendment defines and implements zoning regulations concerning the operation of dance halls within the city.

The language in the amendment separates a cabaret from a dance hall. City attorney Ken Harper told the council a cabaret is distinguished as a separate area attached to an existing facility like a tavern or a cocktail lounge. A dance hall is any building that allows dance events for a fee.

The amendment also details where a dance hall can exist in the city limits.

This has been an issue with the city for some time now. The Sunnyside Police Department has received more than 100 calls for its services at dance halls in Sunnyside in the past five years. This includes a one-month period where police were called to dance halls 24 times in 2007.

The city says many of these requests for police services have arisen from altercations between individuals attending events at dance halls and individuals living in the nearby residential neighborhoods affected by the noise and activities from these dance halls.

Before approving last night's amendment, the city had no regulations concerning these dance halls and how to set them apart from residential areas.

In the city's B-2 zone, according to the new city regulations, dance halls now cannot be located within 1,000 feet from any area in the city limits zoned R-1, R-1M, R-2, R-3 or M-H.

The restrictions are eased for the city's B-3 zones, where a dance hall must be at least 200 feet from any area zoned R-1, R-1M, R-2, R-3 or M-H.

Sunnyside City Councilman Tom Gehlen asked Harper if the new zoning will affect places such as the Catholic Church or the Masonic Temple, where dances are sometimes held.

Harper said these places are exempt from the amendment. He said any dance operated by a fraternal, veteran, service or charitable organization would not be affected. This also includes non-profit organizations registered with the state of Washington as well as educational institutions.

Councilman Nick Paulakis expressed concern about the 1,000 foot buffer zone, adding that he didn't think that did much for the noise sometimes generated from these dance halls.

Councilman Mike Farmer questioned if existing dance halls would be 'grandfathered' in. Harper said yes, they would. He explained that any dance halls in these areas already in existence would be given legal non-conforming use status. However, if any of these businesses discontinued as dance halls for a period of 12 months, the business would lose their legal non-conforming status.

Council voted 7-0 to pass the amendment.

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