Originally created 06/20/02

Keep out smut

There aren't many court battles worth spending taxpayer money on, but the Augusta Commission's decision to fight the establishment of an X-rated adult bookstore on Molly Pond Road at Gordon Highway is well worth opposing.

Not only did more than 250 residents show up at Tuesday's commission meeting to protest a zoning request for Augusta Video X-Mart, but so did Sheriff Ronnie Strength and District Attorney Danny Craig. These crime-fighters know that X-rated stores attract prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts and other unsavory elements. They uglify any community they become a part of.

Earlier in the month, the planning commission recommended approving the request because the smut store - which proposes to sell sexually explicit books, magazines and novelties - met all of the conditions of local law, including distance requirements from schools, churches and bus stops.

But this isn't about an ordinary business complying with the letter of the law. It's about the character of a community. If this were a regular bookstore, gift shop or restaurant there'd be no problem.

The point is X-rated bookstores are different, hardly the kind of businesses Augusta seeks to recruit. The business making the zoning request is from Florida - a state that's overrun with dirty, disgusting hole-in-the-wall X-shops. The North Miami Beach company is obviously trying to extend its smutty tentacles into virgin territory. No one local seems to be involved.

City commissioners rightly voted unanimously against the application. Of course, that's not the end of it. As the planning commission noted, the request did not violate any city ordinance. Hence, the commission's rejection was based on its "discretion" - permitted under local law but usually challenged in court.

Confident Atlanta attorney Tom Maddox holds "discretion" denials in contempt, characterizing such decisions as "the kiss of death." He is filing two lawsuits for his client - one in Richmond County and the other in federal court - challenging Augusta's ordinances regulating adult entertainment establishments.

The city should fight back. It's the right thing to do. We don't believe any fair court will rule that smut-peddlers have a greater right to contaminate a community than the community does to keep the contamination out.


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