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Home / Articles / Columns / SEXed /  Zoning Regulations Cock Block Sex Shops
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Zoning Regulations Cock Block Sex Shops

Santa Fe’s less-than-friendly zoning regulations make sexy business in Santa Fe hard, and not in a good way

June 3, 2014, 12:00 am

Santa Fe is home to hundreds of art galleries, restaurants and other businesses that keep locals and tourists happy, healthy and entertained.

Yet the city is lacking diversity in one industry: sex.

I’m specifically talking about sex shops, where consenting adults go to learn about their bodies, sex lives and relationships. Today’s sex shops are diverse. Some have viewing rooms in the back, some don’t; some are big-box store designs and some aren’t.

Currently, there are only two sexually oriented businesses in Santa Fe: Arcade News and Cheeks of Santa Fe on Cerrillos Road.

City zoning regulations dictate that this kind of businesses can only open in industrial districts with further restrictions outlined in city code.

Those rules define a sexually oriented business as “an adult arcade, adult bookstore or adult video store, adult cabaret, adult escort agency, adult motel, adult motion picture theater, adult news rack or adult performance and encounter (live) business.”

On top of the zoning regulations that keep them in the industrial districts, adult businesses also can’t locate within 1,000 feet of a district zoned for residential or commerical recreational uses or near a school, a religious institution, a public park, playground or recreational facility, eating and drinking establishments, hotels, motels and structures such as theaters, bowling alleys, private day cares, kindergartens and libraries.

The existing adult businesses in Santa Fe are considered non-conforming uses because they were around before February 9, 2000, when the city imposed today’s rules. That means Arcade and Cheeks are “grandfathered in,” but because of their proximity to other businesses, they wouldn’t be allowed as new businesses.

The list of restrictions doesn’t leave many options for growth in this industry for the City Different, forcing shoppers to get toys and films from online retailers and totally bucking the “buy local” vibe so many are working to promote.

Self Serve, the store I manage in Nob Hill in Albuquerque, has many Santa Fe customers who ask why there’s no location farther north. Matie Fricker, one of the store’s owners, says the zoning regulations made them look elsewhere.

“Before starting our store in 2007, we looked at the entire country to try and find a community we could call home, and Santa Fe was very high on the list,” she says. “Once we looked into the zoning codes, we realized that Santa Fe would not be an appropriate place for us to put our store. And it’s really unfortunate because Santa Fe hit a lot of marks for us and it is a charming town. But because of the restrictive zoning, at this point, there is no way we would feel comfortable or safe opening up a store like ours there.”

Matthew O’Reilly, director of land use for the city, says he doesn’t recall anyone applying to operate an adult business in the last few years. That’s no surprise to me. Who wants to try a new retail business between an asphalt plant and the airport?

Au Boudoir was one of the only other businesses in Santa Fe that catered to people’s intimate needs, but it closed a few years ago. The store mostly carried lingerie, but it had a back room with adult toys, lubricants and educational material. I tried contacting the former owner, but she did not respond.

City Councilor Sig Lindell sat on the Planning Commission for seven years before she got elected this spring to the governing body. Even though commissioners votes on zoning issues, she couldn’t recall the issue of zoning for sexually oriented businesses ever coming up.

“It’s a business that people have pretty strong emotions about and I think that unless you fit the zoning criteria, it’s probably a hard thing to get a special use for,” she says. “And people probably won’t embrace it in their neighborhood.”

The city ordinance basically states that having access to information and tools that have to do with sex can be bad for a community’s general welfare, public health and safety. The law actually says these businesses have “deleterious effects.”

I respectfully disagree. Access to sex education is a public health issue; it doesn’t cause one.

Sexual health and satisfaction is important to most people, and instead of treating a sex-related business as a dirty, shameful secret to be tucked away, let’s treat it like the integral part of our lives that it is. Aside from helping people live with pleasure, it provides diversity in the local retail scene. You might even say it stimulates local economy.

Hunter Riley is a Santa Fe native living and working in Albuquerque. She is the store manager of Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center. Send your questions to hunter@selfservetoys.com.

 

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