Friday, May 10, 2013

Atlanta's ZRB rejects Cheshire Bridge ordinances targeting adult businesses

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Protesters came equipped with Say no to Alex Wan signs
  • Max Blau
  • Protesters came equipped with 'Say no to Alex Wan' signs
Cheshire Bridge's adult establishments received a shot in the arm last night against two ordinances that could threaten their future.

Atlanta's Zoning Review Board voted against two proposals that would have booted strip clubs, sex shops, and adult video stores from the bustling corridor. The decision came as supporters and critics packed City Council's chambers to the brim for the meeting.

After hearing a brief presentation from the Office of Planning, which recommended the legislation, the ZRB's members listened to arguments from each side regarding Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan's proposals that target what many consider the city's red light district.

Neighborhood Planning Unit F chair Jane Rawlings, who presided over a recent meeting in support of Wan's efforts, told ZRB members that Cheshire Bridge's adult businesses drive down property values, cause higher vacancy rates, and claimed that the ordinances affect "1 percent" of the corridor's businesses. A number of other residents also expressed their concerns about the adult establishments' negative effects on the surrounding communities. "We live there," said another resident. "We have to deal with what goes on there 24/7."

"We're fed up with not being able to walk to the many wonderful restaurants and retail establishments that are available on Cheshire Bridge Road because we don't want to push our children in a stroller past a strip club," said Courtney Harkness, president of the Morningside Elementary School's Parent Teacher Association.

Nearly 20 opponents lined up to speak against the ordinances. Scott Selig, vice president of Selig Enterprises and a Cheshire Bridge property owner, maintained that the neighborhood's lack of development is more indicative a of competitive development market as well as bad timing with the economic downturn. He also insisted that the ordinances, if approved, would set a bad precedent across the city.

A delegation of several-dozen Onyx employees and representatives also attended the meeting. That included some longtime dancers, who told BZA members about their jobs, which they say have allowed them to support their families and college aspirations. The club's lawyer, Aubrey Villines, said the establishment has been a part of the community for 25 years and even claimed that they had more customers per year "than any other Atlanta building besides the airport."

The ZRB members expressed mixed opinions following a multitude of arguments. Some members, including Mark Reece and Joe Alcock, said the decision could set a bad precedent and should not be taken lightly. Others stressed that a community-focused choice for Cheshire Bridge was needed. A recommendation against the ordinances ultimately prevailed.

While the ruling represented a big win for Cheshire Bridge's adult businesses, the battle isn't quite over yet. Both ordinances will now head to City Council's Zoning Committee on May 29.

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