Sunnyside dance halls scrutinized by planning commission

The city of Sunnyside is zeroing in on adopting an ordinance that would provide for stricter regulation of city dance halls.

Speaking at a public hearing held yesterday, Sept. 14, Peggy Beeler described for the planning commission what it was like living next to a dance hall.

Beeler owns and operates Sunnyside's RV Park on Scoon Road. Next to their establishment is a dance hall called Athena's.

Beeler's report painted a grim image of the dance hall, stating that the she and various RV park residents have bore witness to numerous disturbing incidences from renters of the dance hall.

Residents of the RV park have witnessed people attending events at the dance hall urinating, littering, vandalizing property and engaging in sexual acts.

Beeler also revealed that Athena's had been the subject of 255 calls for police service before the Beeler's purchased the RV park three years ago.

Jamey Ayling discussed with the planning commission how the new dance hall ordinance would help local residents like the Beeler's and hold dance hall owners responsible for behavior on their property.

New applicants for a dance hall license will need to submit to an inspection of the premises. The inspections will ensure that the dance hall abides by all city codes, including zoning, fire, building and electrical.

According to Ayling, dance hall licenses will require a fee of $200, but renewal at the end of the year will not be automatically issued. The city will consider the past reputation of the dance hall before issuing a renewal. The number of policing and traffic problems, disturbance of the peace, criminal activity and any other harmful or disorderly behavior will be evaluated.

Commissioner Darrell Tadlock suggested that they add two sections to the ordinance referencing the city's noise ordinance and zoning regulations.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Francisco Guerrero expressed concern that the strict regulations might push business out of Sunnyside.

"It is strict," said Ayling. "But we've gotten to the point where we need to get strict."

Ayling continued, "We want to cater [to businesses], but we want to have responsible businesses as well."

Tadlock moved to approve adding the two new sections to the ordinance and to send it back to the City Council. Newly appointed commissioner Jesse Hernandez Jr. seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously.


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