Internet parlors get OK to stay open late
By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 20, 2010 1:46 PM
The city has backed off of plans that would have required Internet cafes to close by midnight and further restrict how close they could be located to churches, schools and residential areas.
The changes to the city's Unified Development Ordinance will instead allow the businesses to remain open until 2 a.m. and to be as close as 200 feet to churches, schools and residential areas.
The City Council approved the changes Monday night with little comment as part of a package of ordinance amendments. The amendments, along with the Internet cafe revisions, were approved by the city Planning Commission at its July 26 session.
Development Services Director Randy Guthrie told council members that many of the amendments are clarifications of existing regulations.
The original proposal for the Internet cafes and sweepstakes facilities would have required the midnight closing and kept the businesses 500 feet away from schools, churches and residential areas.
It was changed so that the requirements would be in line with other "places of entertainment" such as bars, Guthrie said.
The original proposal was based on models used by other municipalities, he said.
Guthrie said that during the Planning Commission discussions that members had asked about the closing times and spacing requirements for bars.
It was decided to change the time to 2 a.m. and the spacing to 200 feet to be consistent, he said.
"They agreed it was the most logical way to go," he said.
Along with the time and boundary, it adds a new definition to the ordinance that would require such businesses to obtain a conditional use permit within the General Business, Shopping Center, Highway Business and Industrial-2 zones.
It also requires two parking places per computer and one per employee.
The city adopted rules that, as of June 1, required the Internet cafes to pay a $2,500 licensing fee and an additional $1,000 per machine tax.
Two local business owners opposed the early closing time during a public hearing last month.
There had been some concerns in early council conversations that because more stringent restrictions were not in place that some of the cafes stay open 24 hours a day, and, at times, attract undesirable people and behavior.
State lawmakers voted 86-27 on July 7 to eliminate by Dec. 1 the games.
The other approved amendments include:
* Height exceptions: All structures exceeding 50 feet in height (not including high-rise signs) must be set from the adjoining property lines a distance of at least 150 percent of the structure's height.
* Swimming pools or hot tubs: Swimming pools or hot tubs deemed by the chief building inspector as abandoned or in disrepair must be drained or covered to prevent drowning or injury. Those that cannot be covered might be ordered filled in or removed by the chief building inspector at the owner's expense.
* Plant sizes at installation: The height requirement for screening shrubbery is reduced from 48 inches to 36 inches.
* Landscaping standards: All landscaping screening material shall meet the minimum plant width and spread standards as defined by the American Association of Nurserymen Inc.
* Billboards: Clarifies that billboards are not allowed adjacent to any freeways or expressways as shown in the city's Comprehensive Transportation Plan. It does not change a specific regulation, but reflects the adoption of a new Long-range Transportation Plan.
* Water and sewer: Clarifies wording to require that water and sanitary sewer mains be installed in accordance with city standards and approved by the city engineer and state whenever such utilities are available within 1,000 feet of a proposed subdivision. If wells and septic tanks are utilized, they must meet the requirements of the state Board of Health and be approved by the county Health Department.
* Day care centers: Removes the requirement that child care facilities be required to obtain a conditional use permit and instead be permitted by right in Office and Institutional-1, Neighborhood and Business, Central Business District, General Business, Shopping Center and Highway Business zones. Additional regulations would be included, which would ensure that an adequate fenced outdoor play area is provided and the location of such areas. All child care centers would be required to comply with state and federal laws.
* Board of Adjustment: States that the Planning Commission will serve as the Board of Adjustment.
* Demolition by neglect: Expands the boundary of the area which is subject to demolition by neglect provisions to the entire corporate limits of the city and specifically delete the current boundary listed as the Downtown Redevelopment Area.