On a rainy night in Brookhaven, the Brookhaven City Council assembled at the Cowart Family YMCA on Ashford Dunwoody Rd for a pair of meetings. The Mayor and City Council were joined by a small showing of citizens, vendors, attorneys and media.
First up for the evening was the 7:30 PM Public Hearing where Bob Dallas, a citizen of Dunwoody who sits on the board of the YMCA here in Brookhaven, welcomed the Mayor and City Council.
Mayor J Max Davis opened the Public Hearing on the Zoning Ordinance. Mayor Davis solicited the attendees for any persons who wished to speak "for" or "against" the Brookhaven Zoning Ordinance. With no public interest in discussion, Mayor Davis closed the Public Meeting on Zoning.
The Council moved on to the next agenda item:
- Consideration and Approval of an Ordinance to Adopt and Approve CHAPTER 27: ZONING for Code of Ordinances for the City of Brookhaven (Second Read) - The Ordinance was Unanimously Approved subject to an Amendment to clean up the ordinance at a later time which was offered by Councilman Jim Eyre. There was a good bit of back and forth deliberation which should be viewed, starting at time mark 7:22 in the video titled 1.15.13 Public Hearing.
Moving on to the second Public Hearing of the evening, Mayor Davis again called for public input on the issue of the Brookhaven Sign Ordinance. No public opinion as offered. The Public Hearing on the Sign Ordinance was closed.
On to the last item on the Public Hearing schedule:
- Consideration and Approval of an Ordinance to Adopt and Approve CHAPTER 21: SIGNS for Code of Ordinances for the City of Brookhaven (Second Read) - The Ordinance passed unanimously.
The Public Hearing Meeting of 7:30 Adjourned.
Special Called Meeting
Brookhaven Mayor, J Max Davis called the 8:00 PM meeting to order, followed by a Roll Call by our new City Clerk, Susan Hiott.
In attendance was a full city council; with the exception of District 4 Councilman Gebbia, however, there was a quorum had. Most of the audience from the 7:30 PM Public Hearing remained.
Mayor Davis and Council moved through the agenda in order which led to Item K:
- Consideration and Approval of an Ordinance to Adopt and Approve a Sexually-Oriented Business Ordinance for Code of Ordinances for the City of Brookhaven (Second Read)
- The Second Read was approved unanimously -
as was the First Read on 1.14.
"Just to clarify-- One of the ordinances we had to pass is part of the zoning code that already regulates adult or what are called "sexually oriented businesses." We were advised that the DeKalb code was flawed and probably would not withstand a constitutional challenge. DeKalb also has in place a "settlement" with nine strip clubs, including the Pink Pony, which is in Brookhaven. It basically gives the clubs the right to violate the DeKalb code as long as the clubs pay the county $100, 000 a year. This was not an agreement any of us were willing to be a part of, so we were forced to enact our own code that would both protect our citizens and withstand a court challenge. And we needed to do it befoe January 18th when the moratorium on business licenses and zoning ended.
In case you didn't know, nude, erotic dancing is free expression protected by the 1st amendment, so it cannot be banned. The courts do recognize that cities have a right and responsibility to regulate "the secondary negative effects" associated with strip clubs, such as prostitution, lewd behavior, drug dealing, assaults, robberies, blight, litter etc. So the Brookhaven city council has adopted a code similar to the ones passed by Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Dunwoody, and just last week, the city of Doraville. The new code allows nude dancing but outlaws alcohol in strip clubs as the courts have found that the combination of the two leads to negative behavior. The new code doesn't take effect for an entire year, but don't be surprised if you see that the Pink Pony has filed a lawsuit against the city. Our code has been upheld in the 11th Circuit of the US Courts in the last seven cases, so we are hoping the suit will be decided quickly, in a summary judgement. I know some people think the Pink Pony should have been left alone, but in order to protect the city and prevent any other X-rated bookstores, peep shows, massage parlors or strip clubs from opening up, we had to enact a strong ordinance. You woudn't drive your car without insurance, so that's kind of what we did by enancting this code."
-Rebecca Chase Williams
District 3 Councilman, Bates Mattison shared, "I also want to be clear that this ordinance is to protect future development for the City of Brookhaven...we have a valuable resource in our city where we have very few commercial areas and we need to protect the values of those commercial areas."
Mayor Davis offered a comment that no any one business has been targeted here in this ordinance. It is simply to shore up any deficiencies - as we do with any of the new ordinances - to ensure they are as sound as possible.
Bill Riley, Interim City Attorney asked the Mayor and Council, "I'd just like to make an inquiry. This decision making was based on the information that was provided to all of you by Scott Bergthold on various occasions in your deliberation in making this ordinance. Is that correct?" Mayor Davis provided the first answer, "That is correct. It wasn't just information provided by Mr. Bergthold. There was information provided by Mr. Villines, other sources provided information, we had public comments, we had many people speak on this issue - both for and against - and we took all of that into account as we were adopting this ordinance for Sexually Oriented Businesses." Riley continued through the Council - asking each of them if they would give the same response as Mayor Davis and they all stated, "Yes." During the 1.8 City Council Meeting, Scott gave this presentation found here.
Aubrey Villines, Council for the Pink Pony, warned of litigation if this ordinance passed in the opening comments in his address to the Mayor and City Council at the beginning of the 1.14 Special Called Meeting. "We think that we can reason together on this. We've suggested several things and we think we have an agreement that is binding upon the City of Brookhaven. We would like to continue to operate the way we have always operated - and that is legally and as good citizens and good neighbors in this area." He later added, "We don't want to have a blood bath but if you pass the ordinance that you're going to pass without some sort of recognition of our non-conforming status, we're gonna be in court very very quickly."
The next item on the agenda:
- Consideration and Approval of a One-Read Ordinance to Adopt and Approve Chapter 22 Solid Waste for Code of Ordinances for the City of Brookhaven.
- The item passed unanimously.
The next item on the agenda:
- Consideration and Approval of a One-Read Ordinance to Adopt and Approve Chapter 25: Water, Sewer and Sewage Disposal for Code of Ordinances for the City of Brookhaven
- Bill Riley explained that Brookhavens version of Dekalb County Code on this item has been changed for Brookhaven and that is the requirement to install Low-Flow toilets prior to the sale of a house as a requirement.
- There was a good bit of discussion - ultimately in the end - the ordinance passed unanimously.
The next item on the agenda:
- Consideration and Approval of a Resolution for the Brookhaven Fee Schedule
- Marie Garrett, Interim City Manager explained, this ordinance is consistent with the existing in Dekalb County and this results in no new fees.
- The ordinance passed unanimously.
The City of Brookhaven now has Code Enforcement Officers and Building Inspectors who were sworn in Tuesday night by Mayor Davis.
The Meeting Adjourned.