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City tables adult business ordinance

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- After hearing from an Albany business owner who is concerned passage of a new adult business ordinance could put her out of business, city commissioners voted to table the measure until June 8.

Gail Tymes, owner and operator of Gail's Lingerie on the 900 block of West Broad Avenue, went before the commission Tuesday night to ask that Broad Avenue be included among the streets where businesses like hers will be allowed to operate under the new ordinance.

The proposed Sexually Oriented Business Ordinance regulates where certain types of adult-themed businesses are allowed to set up shop throughout the city.

The ordinance uses zoning categorization as well as a thoroughfare requirement and a distance requirement to limit where businesses like adult novelty stores, strip clubs and lingerie shops are allowed to operate.

Under the proposed ordinance, existing businesses who qualify -- there currently are three including Tyme's store -- and who are located in a location deemed inappropriate by the ordinance, would have to jump through government hurdles to be allowed to operate or find an alternate location.

Because Broad Avenue isn't listed as an approved thoroughfare, Tymes' business would likely violate the new ordinance.

"We haven't had any problems in the 14 years I've been in business except for one burglary," Tymes told the commission. "In fact, I'm proud of the fact that we are working through our couples counseling and seminars to try and keep couples together rather than divorce."

Tymes and her pastor, Pamela Miller, both spoke in support of amending the ordinance to include Broad Avenue.

Planning and Zoning Director Howard Brown said that staff had no real opinion on amending the ordinance, but that they saw no problems with including Broad Avenue so long as it met the other conditions of the ordinance.

Despite that opinion, however, some on the commissioners expressed concern that the process was possibly moving too fast and that they didn't want to take action this month, only to have to take additional action next month.

"I don't think that this is a pressing issue tonight," Ward 6 Commissioner Tommie Postell said. "This lady has a business that is operational and the city has no need to rush and do something that we may have to vote again on next month."

Ward 2 Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard agreed with Postell, saying that she wants to make sure that city staff fully understands the concerns of local businesses.

"I'd like to make sure that the businesses affected by this all understand the ordinance and have had their concerns addressed," Hubbard said.

The commission will take up the issue again at its June 8 meeting, after a motion to table passed 4-1.

In other items, the commission heard from two citizens concerned about the upcoming Fiscal Year 2011 budget.

Local NAACP President William Wright spoke to the commissioners asking them to consider funding a small and disadvantaged business office to help black and minority-owned businesses get their share of government projects.

He also asked the commission to consider buying ultra-high efficient light bulbs for Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission rate payers to help them lower utility costs.

Wright was followed by longtime former commissioner Arthur Williams who asked the commission to consider allocating funding to expand current construction plans for the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

"I'm asking this commission to reconsider or reprioritize funding to the airport so that it be built for future needs," Williams said.

Currently under consideration using special sales tax dollars and federal funding, the new airport terminal is currently in the design phase with construction set to begin in the near future.

Williams said that he believes it is important that the airport be built large enough to handle a second passenger airline and possibly a second freight airline to support and promote future growth.

Ward 4 Commissioner Roger Marietta, who serves on the aviation commission, said that he believes that researching possible expansion is worth the commission's time.

"I think it's a worthy idea," Marietta said. "The way I understand it, if we expand out beyond the current plans that we'd have to dip into the general fund for the additional expense."

The commission will vote on the $104 million budget next month before it goes into effect July 1.