by Jeff Switzer
The Woodinville City Council voted 5-2 last week to allow batting cages as a conditional use in the industrial zone, but the process to open a batting cage business has only just begun for William and Kathleen McClean, who sought the revision.
The change allows applications for conditional-use permits for that type of business, but conditions put on the business, should it locate in the sexually oriented business overlay district (SOBOD), would prevent use by children under the age of 18.
The McCleans' goal was to open a business for use primarily by youth, and they have been unable to find a space large enough for their needs in the commercial zone, driving them into the industrial zone, where nearly five percent of Woodinville's land area has been designated as open to adult entertainment businesses.
In voting for the measure, Councilmember Lucy DeYoung cited the city's family-based population, noting that it has the youngest age group on the Eastside.
"I see recreation and batting practice as the type of activity we want people to be involved in," she said. "You need a big facility with space, and the only type of building like that is in the industrial zone. There's no facility like this in the commercial zone."
The McCLeans had been looking at the former Greenbaum furniture warehouse located within the SOBOD, but in order for them to locate there, there will either have to be a change in the recently passed ordinance, a change to the SOBOD ordinance, or a zoning code change.
"This change does not give them free reign," said Deputy Mayor Don Brocha. "It gives the council and the applicant options and choices. They can locate in the commercial area, the industrial area and stay open to 18 and older, or they can ask for a zoning code change or a change to the SOBOD ordinance."
Originally, city staff and the fire district had recommended against allowing the use in the industrial zone, citing the displacement of industrial land base needed for economic development and the hazardous activity in the area.
However, the Planning Commission recommended approval subject to conditions, such as not locating adjacent to high hazard industrial occupancies; not locating within the SOBOD if open to children under 18; signage regulation; adult supervision of children under 15; no on-site food preparation; and limited retail space.
Those conditions appeared to put the minds of most councilmembers at ease, though Barbara Solberg and Marsha Engel expressed their opinions to the contrary and voted against the measure.
"Our staff and the fire department had done an excellent analysis of the objections to locating a recreational business within the industrial and SOBOD zones, and we really needed to heed that," Solberg said.
She added that the city shouldn't be acting as a quasi-real-estate agency and that the business is for profit and not only for kids. "As long as there's the potential for children to be there, we are responsible for their health, safety, and well-being."