Massage parlors that offer illegal sexual services could be shut down as “public nuisances” under a new Sandy Springs city ordinance in the works.
At the Feb. 2 City Council meeting, City Attorney Wendell Willard said that certain problem massage parlors and spas continue illegal business by changing owners after police crackdowns. “Even though you stop one [operator], here comes another,” he said.
The new “public nuisance” declaration would allow the city “to go after not only the business owner, but also the property owner,” he said. That would mean a court order permanently barring the massage or spa business on the site. Willard called it “another tool in the belt of the city…to stop this unlawful activity.”
City Councilman Ken Dishman said he worked with Assistant City Attorney Cecil McLendon on the proposed ordinance change after hearing complaints from constituents about certain businesses in the northern section of the city. Willard said the specific “public nuisance” ordinance change came from Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney specializing in municipal laws limiting sexually oriented businesses. Bergthold helped Sandy Springs draft other adult business codes, some of which have sparked pending lawsuits accusing the city of unconstitutional infringement of civil liberties.
Councilmen John Paulson and Gabriel Sterling wanted assurances that any property owner would receive due process in the court system. Willard said the city’s “public nuisance” declaration could come only after repeated criminal citations and would have to be approved by a court, which would issue any closure order.
The ordinance was discussed in the council’s work session and was not voted on. City attorneys will draft a final proposal and return to the council later for a vote.