By J. Max Davis
Brookhaven has spent the past six months filling potholes, repairing sidewalks, hiring police commanders and issuing permits. We’ve passed a budget, started live-streaming video of City Council meetings and made it much easier to do business in the city. This is just the beginning. Before the end of the summer, we will have Brookhaven police officers patrolling city streets, have identified a location inside Brookhaven for a city hall and have our comprehensive plan launched.
Typically, these aren’t the things I’m asked about at the grocery store or on the Little League field. It’s easy to overlook all of the work involved with building a new city, particularly when many of the headlines are focused on just one of the many ordinances we have adopted to make Brookhaven a better community for all residents.
Even though I am an attorney, the sexually-oriented business ordinance was not something with which I was familiar or which I expected would be an issue. Like many of the other ordinances we have passed, we modeled our ordinance after those that have been enacted in other communities. In fact, our ordinance mirrors ordinances adopted in Doraville, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, DeKalb County, Fulton County and other governments around the metro region. This is the same ordinance that has been upheld by many courts.
Just to be clear, Brookhaven adopted this ordinance using the same litmus test we use for every action we take – to protect the health, safety and welfare of Brookhaven’s residents and businesses. It is important to understand that the reason Brookhaven is being sued is not because it adopted adult business regulations – DeKalb County currently has similar regulations. Rather, Brookhaven is being sued because our City Council refused to take money from this industry in exchange for letting the industry ignore these laws.
Although DeKalb County struck such a deal with the sexually-oriented business industry, it is a faulty precedent that Brookhaven should not follow. Future businesses would naturally expect and likely be entitled to a similar deal. Imagine the outcry that would erupt if one day this summer a sign popped up by Cambridge Square or on Dresden Drive advertising a new adult business opening.
Residents of our neighboring cities, communities and courts across the country have found that these types of establishments bring a host of negative secondary effects, such as drug dealing, crime, prostitution and adverse impacts on surrounding properties. As erotic dancing is protected under “free speech” and cannot be banned, communities surrounding Brookhaven, including DeKalb County, have enacted and successfully defended ordinances to limit these negative secondary effects. These adult businesses are now looking for a place to go and it is our duty to make sure our neighborhoods are equally protected with similar ordinances.
We are working hard to build a better Brookhaven. The city inherited many problems from DeKalb County, but maintaining the status quo, or cutting deals that allow the law to be ignored in exchange for money, is not the way to accomplish this goal. It is only common sense that the city may consider temporarily halting enforcement of its sexually-oriented business ordinance pending the outcome of litigation. But this is entirely different from entering a agreement that pays the city money in exchange for letting a business ignore the law.
In this transition period, we have been sued because we did not cut such a deal. I am confident that our sexually-oriented business ordinance will be upheld, but for situations like this, we have and will continue to maintain insurance coverage.
The next time you see me in the grocery store or at the Little League fields, please stop and let me tell you about all of the good work we are doing in Brookhaven. This ordinance – like every action we take – is intended to make a better Brookhaven for not just my family, but everyone who lives and works in our city.
J. Max Davis is the mayor of Brookhaven.