News Column

Planners See No Fortune In Psychic's Business

Nov. 28, 2012

Clark Mason

Healdsburg doesn't see a "psychic palm and card reading" business in its future.

The Planning Commission on a 6-0 vote Tuesday night rejected an application by self-described psychic Mike Stevens to set up shop in a former insurance office downtown, just 1-1/2 blocks north of the Plaza.

"It's perhaps antithetical to the basic image we're trying to project as a tourist town," Commissioner Phil Luks said.

The commission affirmed the decision by Planning and Building Director Barbara Nelson, who determined the psychic business is not allowed in the city's downtown commercial district.

Stevens complained that the city is "prejudiced," but vowed to appeal to the City Council to set up his storefront at 416 Healdsburg Ave.

"How can I not say it's prejudiced, you allow every business in town except psychic," he told commissioners after they voted.

"If you came in with an auto repair shop, we would tell you it doesn't belong in the CD (commercial downtown) zone," replied Planning Chairman Jerry Eddinger.

The land use table spells out a long list of commercial and residential uses allowed in the downtown business area, but a psychic business is not among them.

Restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and art galleries are all part of the makeup of the downtown commercial zone, which even allows temporary Christmas tree lots, gunsmith shops and mortuaries.

Stevens said that initially a city planner erroneously told him all he needed was a business license to open downtown, so he put down non-refundable rent money for the empty office, just south of B&B saloon and north of a real estate company.

Healdsburg potentially would permit such a business to exist under the category "personal services" in a mixed commercial and residential district, according to Planning Director Nelson.

Most cities in Sonoma County restrict businesses that bill themselves as psychics or palm and card readers, and require a staff review for a use permit.

In a letter to the city, Stevens said he has been in business for more than 35 years in Sonoma County, where he was born and raised. He has a location in Santa Rosa, on Sonoma Highway, as well as in St. Helena and Rohnert Park.

On Tuesday, he told the commission "I think it would be good for the tourist industry, as well as locals, to have someone in my line of business here."

He said he already gives readings at wineries and corporate functions in Healdsburg.

Stevens said his business could be considered entertainment, therapy, or personal services, which include advisory and consulting services.

But Nelson said the permitted offices for psychologists, psychiatrists and even medical services allowed downtown involve licensed practitioners, which psychics and palm readers are not.

And she said advisory and consulting services typically involve some type of financial or employment counseling.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

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