MORE | Listen to Alex Wan’s failed Cheshire Bridge sermon
Alex Wan's effort to push sex shops and strip clubs off Cheshire Bridge Road failed on Monday with the Atlanta City Council voting 9-6 against the controversial measure.
“This motion fails and this item is not adopted,” City Council President Ceasar Mitchell said to a burst of applause from a packed City Hall chamber after nearly an hour of discussion.
Wan, the gay City Council member who introduced the measures, tried to sway colleague before the vote.
“This is part of a longstanding effort, 14 years and counting, to improve this corridor,” Wan said. “It is a bold new tool that has not been tried in Atlanta.”
City Council member C.T. Martin called it “a defining moment in public policy” but questioned whether pushing sexually-oriented businesses out of one neighborhood might impact others when the sex shops and strip clubs have to relocate by June 2018.
“There are some serious questions about how this one particular piece of legislation will impact neighborhoods in all sorts of weird ways,” Martin said. “It certainly isn't fair to put a business out of business.”
Before the vote, Martin asked for a compelling reason to support it or he would vote against the rezoning proposals. He didn't get what he wanted.
Council member Joyce Sheperd also opposed the measure.
“What's not just right for one community but for all of Atlanta,” she said. “Folks got a right to run their businesses.”
Sheperd raised concerns that the sexually-oriented enterprises forced off Cheshire Bridge would move to other areas of the city, including Fulton Industrial Boulevard and the long-troubled Metropolitan Parkway in her District 12. City attorneys said other than District 5 and Martin's District 10, each of the city's other council districts had at least one parcel of land that could allow sex businesses.
“We have to look at this a little more holistically and I'm not sure this is the answer,” Sheperd said.
Wan hinted, again, before the Council vote that he expects the legislation to land in court if it passed.
“I am not a lawyer and I am not a judge, either We need to leave the judgment decisions on law to a court of law,” Wan said.
On Wednesday, the council's Zoning Committee approved the measures in a 3-2 vote. That followed a vote by the Zoning Review Board to reject them during a lively meeting with strippers.
The vote caps a bruising, months-long debate that started in November when Wan introduced the two measures. The proposals stirred controversy, several online petitions, a review of the corridor's gloryholes, concern over gay bars on the road, support from a gay escort and lots of lobbying. Lots of it, even over bagels.
But Wan summed it up before the vote with an understated quip: “This has been anything but easy,” he said.
UPDATE: Wan released a statement after the vote thanking supporters of his rezoning proposals.
“Obviously I am disappointed in today’s vote. The two rezoning papers I introduced would have made it easier for the residents, businesses and other stakeholders along Cheshire Bridge Road to further revitalize the business corridor. The changes would have allowed for businesses more compatible with the needs of the community, and restrict those that are incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods,” Wan said.
“I would like to thank residents, business owners and city staff for their engagement. As we move forward, I remain committed to continue working with all stakeholders to improve Cheshire Bridge Road,” he added.
How the vote came down. Joining Wan voting in favor were Carla Smith, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michael Julian Bond, Aaron Watson and H. Lamar Willis. Voting against the proposals were Martin, Sheperd, Kwanza Hall, Ivory Lee Young, Jr., Cleta Winslow, Natalyn Archibong, Howard Shook, Yolanda Adrean and Felicia Moore.
UPDATE II: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Wan represents District 5. He represents District 6.