Missouri City City Council approved the first of two readings on an ordinance amending the city’s zoning code regarding massage establishments.

Through a 5-0 vote during its Aug. 1 meeting, the regulations, first adopted by Missouri City in 2018, have been amended through first reading to add the definition of a “massage establishment,” “massage therapist” and “massage therapy,” add massage establishments as a permitted use in LC-2 local retail zones and add supplementary district regulations for massage establishments, according to a July 1 agenda report. A second reading will come at a later council meeting, required to put the amended ordinance into law.

“What you're considering tonight is relocating those regulations from the city's code of ordinances into Appendix A of the zoning ordinance to give you the additional ability to revoke or suspend certificates of occupancy,” said Jennifer Thomas Gomez, Missouri City’s development services director, during the meeting.

According to the amended ordinance, the supplementary district regulations include:

  • a required site plan review for a proposed massage establishment;

  • updated application requirements, including hours and days of operation, proposed location and site plan with exterior elevation and proposed window coverings and signage;

  • outside windows must be transparent;

  • views must be unobstructed from the outside into the lobby/waiting area;

  • Doors must remain unlocked during regular business hours. A solo therapist should be exempted from this requirement;

  • a valid and current massage therapist or massage establishment license must be displayed and easily viewable within the lobby or waiting area;

  • no ATMs are permitted on-site;

  • a peace officer must be granted immediate access; and

  • a certificate of occupancy would be revoked should a prohibited operation be found.

However, if the ordinance is approved on second reading, the zoning regulations would only affect future establishments and relocations, not the 16 state-licensed massage establishments currently located in Missouri City, Gomez said. However, those establishments would be subject to the license display regulation, which could be enforced by either police or the city’s code enforcement team.

“It doesn't give us the ability to revoke the [certificate of occupancy],” Gomez said. “It’s person-specific to the operator or persons that are on-site at the time. So this ups our ability to enforce it and place it on that business itself.”

The amendments to the ordinance come after the human trafficking team for the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office requested that Missouri City consider regulations assisting in preventing sex trafficking in the county, according to the agenda report.

According to Rhonda Kuykendall, chair of the human trafficking team, those efforts have been ongoing for the last eight months.

“I am super excited to see this finally before all of you,” Kuykendall said during the meeting.

City Council support for the ordinance during the meeting was unanimous, with members thanking the human trafficking team for its work in curbing trafficking in the area.

“I know a lot of people think it only happens in Harris County, but it's all over,” Council Member Vashaundra Edwards said. “Once a kid is really impacted by that type of lifestyle, it changes their life forever.”