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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wan's attempt to boot adult businesses from Cheshire Bridge falls short

Cheshire Bridge Road's adult businesses will remain a part of the northeast Atlanta commercial strip for the foreseeable future.

The Atlanta City Council voted yesterday against two ordinances proposed by Councilman Alex Wan that would have forced adult video stores, strip clubs, and sex shops to find a new home.

In a statement, Wan said he was disappointed after spending months championing the legislation, which would have required adult businesses to comply with special zoning restrictions or move by 2018. Despite taking his fair share of flak in the process, he said he would "remain committed" to improving Cheshire Bridge Road in other ways.

"The two rezoning papers I introduced would have made it easier for the residents, businesses and other stakeholders along Cheshire Bridge Road to further revitalize the business corridor," Wan said in a statement. "The changes would have allowed for businesses more compatible with the needs of the community, and restrict those that are incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods."

Wan had received support from several neighborhood associations, the area's Neighborhood Planning Unit, the city's law department, and the city's planning department. But he couldn't overcome growing concerns over the bad precedent the legislation would possibly set.

During yesterday's packed Council meeting, Wan boiled all the arguments down to his fellow councilmembers and asked:

At the end of the day, the question before you is simple: are we community people who support the efforts a community takes to improve our city through planning and visioning? The business owners and neighborhoods have done exactly what we've asked them to. They did a study, created a plan, enacted zoning, they looked for tools to realize that vision...They have done their part. The question is: will we?

Nevertheless, his pleas fell short in a 6 to 9 vote. Those who voted against the Cheshire Bridge ordinances were Councilmembers Kwanza Hall, Ivory Lee Young, Jr., Cleta Winslow, Natalyn Archibong, Howard Shook, Yolanda Adrean, Felicia Moore, C.T. Martin and Joyce Sheperd. Project Q Atlanta nicely explained the rationale behind Martin and Moore's votes:

City Council member C.T. Martin called it "a defining moment in public policy" but questioned whether pushing sexually-oriented businesses out of one neighborhood might impact others when the sex shops and strip clubs have to relocate by June 2018.

"There are some serious questions about how this one particular piece of legislation will impact neighborhoods in all sorts of weird ways," Martin said. "It certainly isn't fair to put a business out of business."

Before the vote, Martin asked for a compelling reason to support it or he would vote against the rezoning proposals. He didn't get what he wanted.

Council member Joyce Sheperd also opposed the measure.

"What's not just right for one community but for all of Atlanta," she said. "Folks got a right to run their businesses."

Sheperd raised concerns that the sexually-oriented enterprises forced off Cheshire Bridge would move to other areas of the city, including Fulton Industrial Boulevard and the long-troubled Metropolitan Parkway in her District 12. City attorneys said other than Wan's District 5 and Martin's District 10, each of the city's other council districts had at least one parcel of land that could allow sex businesses

So what effect will this have on Wan in his district and at the polls during this November's municipal elections? If Wan was correct in saying that the measures' opponents didn't live in the area, then the latest defeat will likely not hurt him politically. His dogged efforts could even endear him to residents in the very civically active area who wanted to see Cheshire Bridge receive a G-rated facelift.

Adult establishment owners and employees ardently fought his legislation and raised enough support to thwart his efforts. But so long as most of those opponents don't live in his district, they won't determine his future. Cheshire Bridge's surrounding residents will. Whether members of the adult-business and the LGBT communities who tried to fight Wan's efforts want him to stay around or not is another issue.

Should someone decide to run against Wan, who's currently unopposed, it's hard to imagine this hurting his chances at serving a second term.

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