X-Mart loses to city in court

The business owners who want to open an adult video store in Augusta lost another round to the city this week.

The owners of X-Mart Adult Supercenter have been waging a legal battle since 2002 to open on Gordon Highway.

They lost their legal challenge initially but won on appeal when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Court Senior Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. was wrong in finding that X-Mart did not qualify for grandfather status under a new zoning ordinance.

On Tuesday Judge Bowen noted that the federal appeals ruling also stated that X-Mart would still have to abide by other city ordinances and that's where X-Mart's effort fails.

The city's licensing ordinance limits certain businesses from operating along the city's gateway corridors. The location on Gordon Highway is on a gateway corridor.

Because X-Mart could not have opened without the business license in 2002, the owners' damages were limited to the period from April 11 through July 18, 2002, Judge Bowen wrote.

X-Mart owners sought damages from 2002 to the present.

The city commissioners halted the store's opening in July 2002 by passing a new zoning ordinance designed to keep X-Mart out. The zoning change was deemed unconstitutional, and X-Mart briefly opened its doors in 2003. Then the city revoked its business license.

Though property owners have certain rights and protection from zoning rules, a license is a privilege, not a right, Judge Bowen wrote.

In the ruling the judge granted the city partial summary judgment. Further discovery and a trial are not needed, the judge ruled.

The only issue remaining is the amount of damages.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.