A long-awaited amended brothel ordinance was approved by Churchill County commissioners Thursday, giving potential brothel owners specific rules to govern that type of business.
The ordinance, which took months to finalize, makes substantial changes to county laws that regulate how a house of prostitution must operate. It went through 18 draft revisions before being unanimously approved by commissioners.
One of the major changes favored by the brothel industry in Nevada is that prostitutes will no longer be considered employees of the business. They will work as independent contractors and be responsible for their own tax burdens and weekly medical examinations.
Planning Director Eleanor Lockwood said she's already received questions from people about the application process to open a brothel in the county. She explained that the first step is to apply for a special use permit through the planning department.
"Anyone interested in moving forward with the process, we recommend they come to our office so we can explain the process," she said.
Brothels will not be restricted to any certain area of the county. Each application will be reviewed separately to ensure it complies with the new ordinance, which prohibits brothels from operating within 2,000 feet from schools, parks, school bus stops, churches and any adult entertainment business.
The document also requires a well-maintained building and a buffer zone between a brothel and its neighbors. A six-foot fence with an entrance gate and signs that clearly state the business is a house of prostitution are necessary.
Quarterly fees are set by resolution. They are based on the number of rooms in the establishment and go up after the first year of operation. The commission can deviate from the fees if a hardship exists. Commissioners will also review the fee scheduled every three years.
Churchill County voters decided in 1974 to allow legal prostitution in the county.
Last year, a group of residents gathered enough signatures to qualify for a ballot measure to ban the practice.
The measure to repeal the brothel ordinance failed by a 2-1 margin.
Currently there are no open brothels in Churchill County. Salt Wells Villa, 15 miles east of town, closed more than a year ago after the owner declared bankruptcy and was closed down by the health department for lack of potable water.
The only other brothel that has operated in the county since 1974 was Lazy B. It has been shuttered for years and also had problems finding usable water.