Cheshire Bridge Rezoning Debate Heats Up, with Op-eds in Georgia Voice Magazine
(APN) ATLANTA — Georgia Voice Magazine ran dueling op-eds online and in its print edition yesterday, February 15, 2013, from Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan (District 6) and APN’s News Editor, the present writer, regarding the proposal to sunset adult entertainment establishments and other so-called nonconforming establishments, on Atlanta’s Cheshire Bridge Road.
Two ordinances, 12-O-1599 and 12-O-1600, introduced by Councilman Wan, are pending before the Zoning Review Board, which delayed action on the ordinances for sixty days at its January 03, 2013 meeting.
In 2005, the City adopted legislation to rezone two parts of Cheshire Bridge Road, to become Neighborhood Commercial Districts NC 4 and NC 5. Existing businesses such as adult entertainment establishments were grandfathered in as part of the plan, but now Councilman Wan wants to go back and change that. The two ordinances that are currently proposed would bring an end to even those establishments.
Those establishments would have two years to either close or could pay a fee and apply to the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) to be considered for an “amortization period.” This period is a length of time that the BZA would determine the business would be allowed to continue to operate on Cheshire Bridge Road, after which time the business would have to relocate or close.
“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,” Laurel David, an attorney for a group of property owners along the corridor, told WABE radio.
The City seems to anticipate the uncertain legal nature of the legislation, as both ordinances include language stating, “Should any section or provision of this chapter be declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such decision shall not affect the validity of this chapter as a whole or any section thereof other than the section or provision specifically declared to be invalid.”
NC 4 goes down Cheshire Bridge Road from Piedmont Road to where Cheshire Bridge goes over the train tracks.
NC 5 goes down Cheshire Bridge Road from a point about halfway between Faulkner Road and Woodland Avenue, nearly to LaVista Road.
There is a small part of Cheshire Bridge Road that is in neither NC district, going from the train tracks past Faulkner Road, about halfway to Woodland Avenue. Therefore, as Councilman Wan notes in his column, neither the Heretic nor the Jungle, two popular gay bars, are immediately impacted, nor is BJ’s in its current location immediately impacted, as they are on opposite sides of NC 5.
However, even these establishments may face long-term challenges to keep up with rents or property taxes as Cheshire Bridge gentrifies, as Councilman Wan envisions.
Numerous adult businesses that are endangered include Inserection, Onyx, Opus, Southern Nights Video, Starship, and Uptown Novelty.
Numerous auto maintenance service, auto repair shops, and car washes, are also endangered.
In addition, Kelly Nelson of New Baby Products, a baby product store at Woodland Avenue and Cheshire Bridge Road, told WABE that her store would also not be able to keep up with the new zoning standards of NC 5.
The ZRB will rehear the case on March 06, 2013, and the case may be deferred further.
“Interim results – Public input process suggests that the City’s standard NC requirements regarding permitted uses might not be completely appropriate for the Cheshire Bridge Road corridors,” according to a summary of the proposed legislation posted on the website of the Lindbergh-LaVista Corridor Coalition.
“Community stakeholders are reviewing permitted uses in NC districts and may make recommendations to amend those requirements specifically within Cheshire Bridge Road’s NC 4 and NC 5,” the summary states.
Councilman Wan’s column appearing in the Georgia Voice, “Point: Time to revitalize, not sterlize Cheshire Bridge,” is available online here: http://www.thegavoice.com/opinion/columnists/5853-point-time-to-revitalize-not-sterilize-cheshire-bridge
In the column, Wan claims that the rezoning efforts are not an effort to “sterilize” the area.
“Fears that the corridor will lose its character are unfounded. Opponents who claim these efforts will ‘sterilize’ the area and make it more like Buckhead or suburbia demonstrate their failure to understand the basic NC district concept,” Wan wrote.
However, it is not immediately clear how Cheshire Bridge can retain its character if adult businesses are banished.
In a December 2012 interview with Project Q Atlanta, “Wan [said] that the city’s industrial areas can accommodate the sexually-oriented businesses if they are forced from Cheshire.”
“There is obviously a demand and a market for this. If we could find the right space for it, to me it is definitely worth exploring as we continue to see that there is a market for it,” Wan told Project Q at the time.
The column by APN’s Editor, “Counterpoint: Save Cheshire Bridge from Alex Wan and the gentrifiers,” is available online here: http://www.thegavoice.com/opinion/columnists/5854-counterpoint-save-cheshire-bridge-from-alex-wan-and-the-gentrifiers
Both Project Q Atlanta and Creative Loafing Atlanta’s Fresh Loaf blog have written about the dueling op-eds. The op-eds have also received numerous comments on Facebook and in various comment sections.
In one measure of public opinion, to date, the op-ed by APN’s Editor has received 77 likes on Facebook, while Wan’s op-ed has received 27.
The full text of the op-ed by APN’s Editor is reprinted here for informational purposes:
Cheshire Bridge Road: alluring, risque, diverse, authentic, vibrant, alive, and now… endangered because of people like Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, the openly gay official whose District 6 includes both Cheshire Bridge Road and Midtown.
Recently, we learned of a zoning effort to change the character of Cheshire Bridge by getting rid of restaurants, bars, clubs, and stores that were grandfathered in as part of a 2005 rezoning. Now Mr. Wan wants to go back and get rid of grandpa.
The legal aspects of this do not bode well for Wan nor for the neighborhoods he purportedly represents, as they have proposed an illegal “taking.”
This “taking” is about the ongoing project of gentrification, homogenization, sterilization and capitalization of a historic neighborhood.
I have been fortunate enough to live off of Cheshire Bridge since 2011, in a jewel of a multi-racial community on Woodland Avenue, that is one of the last bastions of affordable, multifamily rental housing in all of Buckhead and Midtown.
This is what Wan and his second-wave gentrifiers wish to destroy the most, so they can make way for more repulsive condos and luxury apartments made of ticky tacky that no working family can afford.
Cheshire Bridge, in my view, became the new Midtown several years ago after the second wave of gentrification in Midtown entered full swing, displacing the working class homosexuals who fixed up the place.
So, do we, the gay community, allow the Jungle and the Heretic to go the same way as Backstreet? Do we allow another community to be yuppified, buppified, and sterilized — forcing us, the gays who wish to party, to some industrial area in the outskirts like Mr. Wan envisions, perhaps Fulton Industrial, where we can dance the night away in one of the worst pollution hotspots in all of the metro Atlanta area?
These neighborhood associations who want so desperately to see porn stores shuttered, working families banished, and their property values skyrocket, should not get their way.
The fact is, they knew exactly what neighborhood they were moving into when they chose to move here. Their complaints are not valid now.
In Wan’s vision of Atlanta, people come home from their corporate jobs to their 2.5 dogs cheerily barking at their white picket fence, then they have dinner and watch television.
In the real Atlanta, people have sexual needs and desires that they sometimes wish to act upon, sometimes involving bars, strippers, and dance clubs. Cheshire Bridge, our red light district, is a natural outgrowth and expression of our very humanity, which we should take pride in.
Finally, gay voters need to be more critical and introspective about the politicians we support. Gay does not mean progressive, and Mr. Wan is Exhibit A. Sometimes, having an openly gay elected official can result in the pursuit of policies that actually harm the gay community.
The Zoning Review Board will soon consider this proposal, and we should organize to defend, protect and preserve our historic neighborhood.