By: Jack White and Lola Carlisle
The operation of adult entertainment on Cheshire Bridge Road has been a topic of concern for many residents, property owners, and business owners in this area for years. In 1999, the Cheshire Bridge Road Study was published. It was the result of a year’s worth of work and input from surrounding area residents, property owners and City of Atlanta staff. Among many findings, the study concluded that the presence of adult businesses on the street was hindering positive redevelopment appropriate for a street surrounded by single-family residences.
As a result of the study and its conclusions, a Neighborhood Commercial (NC) Zoning district was proposed to address the future development of Cheshire Bridge Road. Supported by most residents and businesses and adopted by Council, the new NC zoning prohibited new adult businesses and “grandfathered” existing ones on the supposition that they would disappear in the foreseeable future.
Some did; most did not. The new proposed legislation’s primary change to the original NC zoning is to “sunset” the grandfathered adult businesses. It gives non-conforming adult businesses five more years to operate and requires them to relocate by June 30, 2018. The three neighborhood associations that abut Cheshire Bridge Road – Morningside-Lenox Park Association, Piedmont Heights Civic Association, and Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association – have voted to support the sunset legislation, as has NPU-F.
The legislation was considered at the May 9, 2013 Zoning Review Board (ZRB) meeting. Many residents spoke in favor of the proposed legislation, making the well-established arguments about the challenges associated with zoning uses traditionally viewed as incompatible. Many non-residents (business and property owners, employees of the Cheshire Bridge adult businesses, and special interest groups) spoke in opposition, arguing that requiring businesses to move elsewhere – even after 20 years – was unconstitutional or might increase unemployment.
The City of Atlanta Legal Department testified that the proposed ordinance is consistent with Georgia law and the US Constitution, and the Planning Department recommended approval.
The citizens on the ZRB appeared to be baffled and paralyzed by the presentations and the attendant theater; after several stretches of dead silence, it eventually opposed the ordinance 2-1, with two members abstaining from the discussion and vote. The ordinance then went to the City Council’s Zoning Committee, where it passed 3-2, with one abstention. Its next stop is the full City Council on June 3rd. A favorable council vote will send the legislation to Mayor Reed for his approval.
Direct public input on legislation is not permitted at Atlanta City Council meetings, but Virginia-Highland residents are encouraged to review the proposed legislation and contact city council members to voice your opinion. There are several petitions available online on this topic as well, should you choose to seek them out.
Here are links to a fact sheet and details of the legislation: