Pasco planners firmly against dance hall

More than 50 people, many holding handwritten signs, silently supported a proposed downtown dance hall as the Pasco Planning Commission met Thursday.

One sign read, "Don't be afraid to make new changes."

But the commission voted 5-1 to recommend denying the request for a second time.

The city council asked the planning commission to reconsider Delia Hernandez's request to rezone a building at 117 S. Fifth Ave. to allow an alcohol-free youth dance hall.

The commission again found, however, that the hall would fit under uses the city identified as detrimental to downtown when it created the central business district. Hernandez's property is on the edge of the district.

Chairman Joe Cruz, who voted against the denial, said changing zoning for a property on the edge of the district would not undo downtown improvements.

But Commissioner Andy Anderson said that zoning was created for a reason.

"I'm not questioning whether the applicant would run a great business," he said. "It's my opinion if you put a hole in that dam, I don't know how many fingers we are going to need to keep it from leaking."

Commissioner Jana Kempf agreed, saying she wants to see the proposed dance hall in town, but not downtown.

If the city council wants to open the downtown to different uses, it needs to amend the zoning, Anderson said.

After the decision, Hernandez said she wasn't sure if she would try to open the dance hall somewhere else. She already owns the building on Fifth Avenue, and said she has invested $240,000 in improvements.

When other businesses decided to move to Road 68, Hernandez said, she decided to stay in downtown. It's transformed into a Hispanic business area, and the city needs to let it change, she said.

Hernandez said she was willing to do a one-year probationary zone change. Cruz suggested that in April as an option, but other commissioners opposed it.

Carl Holder of Pasco said the city needs to eliminate the outdated law. That zoning has prevented other businesses from opening downtown, he said, and now the city is left with vacant business fronts.