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Rohnert Park votes to limit massage parlors

No new massage businesses will be allowed to open in Rohnert Park for at least 45 days unless all the massage therapists they employ are certified, under an ordinance the City Council adopted Tuesday.

Existing massage businesses with employees who are uncertified will be allowed to renew their permits during the moratorium, but only if they are not relocating.

Businesses employing massage therapists certified by the California Massage Therapy Council, or CAMTC, which was created by the state for that purpose, will be permitted under the ordinance.

The urgency ordinance took immediate effect and can be extended for up to two years. It is intended — like others the city adopted recently that address pawn shops and some other businesses — to forestall potential negative impacts from the 3,000-slot machine Graton Resort & Casino soon to open on the city's outskirts.

“For example, massage parlors pose a risk of prostitution and physical harm to patrons,” city attorneys Alexandra Barnhill and Michelle Kenyon said in their report to the council.

The council passed the ordinance unanimously and with no discussion.

After the vote, though, Vice-Mayor Joe Callinan said: “The moratorium is just a time out, shall we say. It's not that we're against these things, necessarily. It's just all new to us. We haven't had a casino in Rohnert Park. We just need to get a grip on this.

Nobody in the audience addressed the council.

The new law will preserve consumers' ability to get proper massage health care, said Stacey DeGooyer, a Petaluma massage therapist and vice president of law and legislation for the Redwood Empire Unit of the American Massage Therapy Association.

“The CAMTC certified massage professionals will not be affected by this vote and moratorium, so the public will have access to therapeutic massage by well qualified practitioners,” said DeGrooyer in an interview after the meeting, which she did not attend.

“This also establishes the platform that it sounds like the City Council and Police Department were looking for, to limit other businesses that they don't want to have showing up in their town,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, the council extended to two years similar moratoriums on pawn shops, adult entertainment businesses, check-cashing shops, cyber-cafes and electronic message centers.

Development Services Manager Marilyn Ponton said staff needed more time to draft new ordinances governing those business types.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

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