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Sunnyside puts moratorium on dance hall license applications

An attempt to re-open the Venus dance hall after a two-year hiatus prompted the Sunnyside City Council last night to impose a moratorium on all new applications for dance halls.

Monday night's action follows a series of incidents over the past several weeks in which owners of the Venus hall, situated on Scoon Road next to Sunnyside RV Park, attempted to re-open the dance hall.

Things came to a head recently when city code officials were going to allow the hall to re-open despite the fact that not all conditions were met.

Martin and Peggy Beeler own the RV park and have told the city council about noise and drinking at the Venus hall in the past that led to several stops there by Sunnyside police.

Last night, Peggy Beeler told council of an incident just the other night when a car without a muffler drove around the dance hall and RV park area at 2 a.m. To make things worse, the driver of the car got out and went to the bathroom right in front of the RV park.

Beeler said there are families and children staying at the park. "That's not something you would want to see happen," she said.

The complaints and ensuing discussion prompted the city to call for a moratorium on new dance halls. The issue, says City Manager Eric Swansen, is that existing code does not take into account neighboring property uses.

For example, the existing buildings known as dance or "cabaret halls" are in places near industrial areas, such as the Sunnyside Eagles lodge.

Venus hall, though, is in a residential area, impacting other residents besides the Beelers.

Swansen said it's time for the city to take a step back and evaluate how to make sure dance halls are not placed in residential areas or areas that would be incompatible with existing uses.

One idea under consideration is to impose conditional use permits that would make it necessary for an annual review of the dance hall use of a property.

The moratorium is the third in less than year in Sunnyside, all imposed since Swansen became city manager. The other moratoriums were related to adult entertainment and new developments near the Sunnyside airport.

The dance hall moratorium is effective until Oct. 19.

Next step for the dance hall issue is the Sunnyside Planning Commission, which will consider the issue before forwarding an eventual recommendation on to council.

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