At its most recent meeting the Fayette County Board of Commissioners made a preemptive strike that will keep a tight reign on fairs, carnivals, sideshows, tattoo parlors and sex shops in the county.
As Planning and Zoning Director Pete Frisina pointed out, the county can’t stop the sexually oriented businesses from coming to Fayette County, but they can be very rigidly regulated to keep them in limited areas.
According to Frisina, the proposed changes to the ordinance regulating these establishments are similar to those that Peachtree City, Fayetteville and Tyrone have already adopted. These amendments will also update the codes to keep them consistent with current state codes. The regulations regarding tattoo parlors were recently adopted by the board of health and are governed by the board of health and will be regulated by the board of environmental health but “they wanted to put that in our code so we have the ability to write citations if there are any violations.”
The county has been going over its entire book of ordinances for the past year, trying to eliminate contradictions with other codes and correcting and eliminating antiquated language and rules.
“We redid our whole zoning code in 2010, and we’re having to do it again to resolve housekeeping issues. All of our codes are out of date and need to be addressed.”
The changes to the ordinance take into consideration everything from permit application fees, time tables, renewals, and requirements for granting permits. The subsection on Sexually Oriented Businesses and Massage Parlors “have neither the purpose nor effect of imposing a limitation or restriction on the content of any communicative materials, including sexually oriented materials. Similarly, it is neither the intent nor effect of this article to restrict or deny access by adults to sexually oriented materials protected by the First Amendment, or to deny access by the distributors and exhibitors of sexually-oriented entertainment to their intended market. Neither is it the intent nor effect of the ordinance [from which this article derives] to condone or legitimize the distribution of obscene material.”
Drawing from a hefty volume of research, the ordinance notes that “sexually oriented businesses should be separated from sensitive land uses to minimize the impact of their secondary effects upon such uses, and should be separated from other sexually oriented businesses, to minimize the secondary effects associated with such uses and to prevent an unnecessary concentration of sexually oriented businesses in one area.”
The verbiage covers every contingency from adult modeling studios and book stores to movie theaters, video rental facilities, bath houses, escort agencies and massage parlors, imposing strict rules and fines for any violation of those rules.
These businesses are restricted to the M-1 zoning which is considered light industrial and there are only three of those properties along the major routes through the county. Additionally, the setback standards have been set at 1,000 feet from the front door of the establishment to the property line of any residence, school, church or park. Owners and employees will be subject to background checks and fingerprint checks, similar to establishments serving alcohol.
New resident Bonita Williams was concerned about why the commission is even considering this for the community.
“I’m concerned about what areas the M-1 zoning is going to affect. I want specific information. These businesses bring down a community and encourage crime. The reason I moved here was because this is a beautiful community and it didn’t have this.”
Denise Ognio questioned why the commission was considering the ordinance if no one had yet requested this type of business.
“I’m very much against it.”
Commission chairman Steve Brown pointed out that the commission was considering the ordinance now to prevent a situation like the one faced in Sharpsburg when a Starship retail outlet opened in an abandoned retail spot on Highway 34. There were no regulations in place that would prohibit the store from opening.
“We’re trying to get ahead of the curve and look at the most appropriate place that would do the least amount of harm. It may not be want we want it to be, but there’s the first amendment points that have to be made. We can’t restrict it all together, but if it does come, we want to control it to this level.
“The way it is now, if someone wanted to apply for this use in the county were there is an open business, technically, they have the legal right to do it where we don’t want it. I don’t want it in M-1 either, but they would have to meet the qualifications we put into effect. That would be a big discouragement. We’re protecting ourselves against this,” Brown said.
Marissa Williams, a life long resident of Peachtree City said she wanted to see studies that show what the crime rate already is in those areas and how it would affected by these types of businesses, noting she wasn’t happy about the zoning area the commission is limiting the businesses to.
“I think we’re asking for more crime to come to Fayette County. Why would you bring this into a family-oriented community? I just don’t this is a good thing for the community.”
Commissioner Randy Ognio pointed out that if the ordinance wasn’t put in place now, those businesses could come in anywhere in the county.
Brown pointed out the areas were “very limited in scope” but that if Williams found information she could bring it back to the commission so the ordinance could be amended.