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Fayette chooses zone for sex shops

Hoping to take the bull by the horns before it enters the china shop, the Fayette County Commission passed an ordinance Thursday that heavily restricts sexually-oriented businesses that might seek to locate in unincorporated Fayette County.

The new ordinance restricts such businesses as strip clubs, “adult” movie theaters, adult modeling studios and adult novelty stores to be located only in areas zoned for light industrial use. Doing so limits such locations to just three different areas in the county, officials said.

Ostensibly such a regulation would keep adult businesses from being near the prevalent commercial and residential zoning districts in the county.

The ordinance also restricts sexually-oriented businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of a school, religious institution, public park, child care facility or any property zoned for a residential use.

The ordinance also requires employees of sexually-oriented businesses to get a special permit from the county that includes a fingerprint check and a criminal history background report conducted on each applicant, according to the ordinance.

The new rules also forbid the sale of alcohol on the premises of any sexually-oriented business.

The new regulations passed unanimously, but not before some spirited comment from two residents.

Denise Ognio, wife of county commissioner Randy Ognio, said she didn’t like the ordinance restricting sexually-oriented businesses to areas of the county where there are existing problems already.

Marissa Williams said she was concerned about the sexually-oriented businesses being limited to lower-income areas of the county and having a negative affect on those residents.

Officials noted that they had to find some way to accommodate sexually-oriented businesses through zoning, because if they failed to do so, such a business could essentially locate anywhere in the county it so chose.

The county’s three areas zoned for light industrial use are off Ga. Highway 54 east of Fayetteville, off Ga. Highway 85 north of Fayetteville and off Ga. Highway 314 north of Fayetteville. Commission Chairman Steve Brown noted that the light industrial-zoned properties do not run the length of those highways but are instead restricted to specific areas.

Williams said she was going to do some research on the matter, and several commissioners invited her to come back and make a report to them if she was able to come up with a better idea on the zoning issue in particular.

Williams said she supported the idea of the ordinance in terms of regulating sexually-oriented businesses, but she opposed the locations in which such businesses would be allowed.

Commissioner Randy Ognio noted that county Planning and Zoning Director Pete Frisina did a lot of research in checking how lawsuits had been filed in an effort to create a legally defendable ordinance.

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