WABE News
10:58 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Plan Targeting Cheshire Corridor's Adult Businesses Tabled

Southern Night Videos is one of the adult establishments along Cheshire Bridge Road targeted by the new legislation.

The city of Atlanta's zoning review board late Thursday tabled an effort to reshape the Cheshire Bridge Road corridor, currently known for its density of adult businesses. A proposal seeks to transform the area into a more family-friendly area.

The latest proposal seeks to build off a previous attempt to redevelop the neon-lit street. In 2005, the city rezoned the area to allow only establishments that encourage walking, biking, and streetside shopping. However, businesses that were already there like Southern Nights Video and the Dollhouse strip club were grandfathered in and couldn’t be displaced.

Before the zoning review board, area resident Jerry Newmark said those grandfathered businesses are stunting neighborhood growth.

“Cheshire Bridge has become an embarrassment. You talk about living near Cheshire Bridge, if you so dare, and you automatically get these comments, ‘Cheshire Bridge?’”

Two ordinances from city councilman Alex Wan seek to get rid of the grandfathered businesses after 2015, unless they come into compliance with the 2005 rezoning standard. If not, the two-year window is meant to give businesses enough time to recover any losses.

But attorney Aubrey Villines, representing the Onyx strip club, said the two-year time frame is completely unrealistic.

“To tell us we’d recoup our investment within two years, I can’t even begin to laugh at that one. That can’t happen.”

In addition to adult establishments, the proposed ordinances would affect auto repair shops, car washes, and other businesses that don't comply with the newer rezoning standard. 

One of those businesses is New Baby Products, which has been on Cheshire for more than 40 years. 

“My mother, my aunts, my cousins, everyone relies on this business and I’m not a fancy attorney, but when they say throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we are the baby, we’re the baby store, and we’d be thrown out with the bathwater,” said Kelly Nelson, who helps manage the store with her family. 

One after another, opponents called the proposal unconstitutional. 

"We have thriving and viable businesses who are being told that they they will lose their property rights due to this ordinance and as a result...[it] constitutes a taking of private property and violates both the Georgia and U.S. constitutions," said Laurel David, an attorney for a group of property owners along the corridor. 

Many of the business owners complained the city did not tell them changes were even being considered.

Charletta Wilson Jacks, a staffer with the zoning review board, said city attorneys advised against advanced notice.

“We were operating under the advice that because this was an amendment…that that requirement did not need to be put into effect.”

Ultimately, board members tabled any decision for 60 days. During that time the board will meet with Councilman Wan to review public concerns.