Originally created 07/19/02

City law on adult business changes



A city ordinance regulating adult entertainment establishments was amended Thursday by Augusta commissioners.

Although sexually oriented businesses still will be able to locate in the city's industrial areas, officials say they hope the changes will preclude Augusta Video X-Mart - a pornographic book and video store - from setting up shop on Gordon Highway.

In lieu of having to secure a special zoning exception to locate in Augusta, adult bookstores and erotic dance establishments are now permitted to locate only in areas zoned for light or heavy industry. Under the amended ordinance, such shops also are prohibited from opening in areas deemed to be in "gateway corridors."

A city Corridor/Gateway Action Plan, approved in 2000, designated prominent locations throughout the city. The action plan lists the Gordon Highway intersection where the adult bookstore is trying to open as one such corridor.

"It's more specific," said City Attorney Jim Wall, who drafted the amended ordinance and presented it to commissioners late Thursday afternoon.

Augusta Video X-Mart would sell sexually explicit books, magazines, videos and novelties and would be located on Molly Pond Road, near the intersection of Gordon Highway and Doug Barnard Parkway. Zoning officials have said the store meets all of the requirements of local law, including distance requirements from schools, churches and bus stops. The property is in an area zoned for heavy industry.

Commissioners denied the bookstore's special exception request last month based on the city's former ordinance, which allowed them to use individual discretion on zoning issues.

The bookstore's lawyers have challenged in federal court the constitutionality of that decision and the special zoning exception requirement. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. has not ruled on an injunction request the bookstore presented to him last week.

The amended ordinance not only removes the requirement for a special exception, but also eliminates the commission's discretionary authority, Mr. Wall said. He would not comment on how the changes could affect the city's pending court case.

But Mayor Bob Young said he and commissioners are hopeful that the ordinance change will affect the outcome of the appeal.

"This is the best we can do at this time, and we feel it will preclude this bookstore from opening at this location," Mr. Young said.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.