Draft zoning law would limit locations for new adult-focused businesses

Published 6:41 am Monday, May 20, 2024

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The city of Albert Lea is proposing a zoning law that would limit the locations for new cannabis, off-sale liquor, tobacco and sexually-oriented businesses.

The community is invited to learn more and provide input about the proposal at an open house Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 221 E. Clark St. City representatives will be available to answer questions and take input, with a presentation at 5:15 p.m.

“The location of these businesses will affect Albert Lea for decades, even permanently, so we want to proceed cautiously,” said Wayne Sorensen, building and zoning official.

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The proposed zoning law was prompted by Minnesota legalizing recreational use of marijuana in 2023 and allowing new types of cannabis businesses to open in 2025 or earlier. The city is seeking to take an equitable approach to regulating cannabis, tobacco, off-sale liquor and sexually-oriented businesses.

Under the draft zoning law, new adult-focused businesses would be prohibited in residential areas, the historic downtown, an area around downtown and areas along interstates.

In other parts of Albert Lea, new cannabis, off-sale liquor and tobacco businesses would need to be at least 1,000 feet from a school or 500 feet from a day care, residential treatment facility, or an attraction within a public park that is regularly used by minors, including a playground or athletic field.

Sexually-oriented businesses, including those with exotic dancers, would need to be at least 1,000 feet from a school or 500 feet from a residential area, park, recreational area, public theater, shopping center or airport. They would need to be at least 1,500 feet from an interstate highway.

Existing adult-focused businesses can continue to operate in their current locations. However, expanding in their current locations may be prohibited, depending on the final law adopted by the Albert Lea City Council.

The draft law may change in the coming months based on:

  • Public input
  • Planning Commission review and recommendations
  • City Council review and final decisions
  • Minnesota Legislature actions
  • League of Minnesota Cities recommendations

The Albert Lea City Council recently approved a moratorium on new applications for cannabis, off-sale liquor, tobacco and sexually-oriented businesses to allow time to study how best to regulate them, including zoning. The moratorium will be siix months or less, with the city’s Development Services Department presenting its findings and recommendations to the city council for adoption.

For more information, visit the city website at https://cityofalbertlea.org/zoningforthefuture/. Interested parties may also contact Wayne Sorensen, building and zoning official, at 507-377-4340 or wsorensen@ci.albertlea.mn.us.