County adopts nightclub provision

By Justin Reedy

Anyone interested in opening a nightclub in Clayton County will have to get permission from the county's governing body, even if the property for the nightclub is zoned for such an establishment.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners has amended the county zoning ordinance to add a conditional use for nightclubs, which are defined as places of "entertainment serving food and alcoholic beverages, having a floor show (or other performance designed to entertain), and providing music and space for dancing."

The change will mean that anyone opening a nightclub, even if the property is properly zoned for such a club, will be required to obtain a conditional use permit from the county commission before opening the establishment.

The idea for the new zoning practice came up after the controversial opening of the Rusty Rooster, a country and western restaurant and dance club opened in an old shopping center in Rex.

Some local residents and officials have been critical of the club's location, which is near a residential area and a school.

"I don't really have any gripe with (the club itself), but it's sort of odd that it could be put there," said Forest Park resident Scott MacLean, who drives past the center on his way to work.

Since the shopping center already had the proper business zoning classification for a nightclub and restaurant, the business owners didn't need the commission's approval before opening. That's why Commissioner Charley Griswell pushed for changing the county's zoning ordinance to require a conditional use permit for nightclubs.

"I think that's what brought it to a head is businesses like that being able to move into a shopping center without coming before the commission and asking for a conditional use permit," Griswell said. "Hopefully, it'll prevent (dance clubs and similar businesses) from moving into a shopping center. We need to cover ourselves and close that loophole."

Though MacLean doesn't have a problem with the Rusty Rooster specifically, he thinks it's a good idea to require such a permit for prospective nightclub owners.

"I think it would be very smart to (require a conditional use permit), because they could stave off any conflicts with adjoining property," he said.

In other business, the commission recently approved another change to the zoning ordinance that will allow more units per building in apartment complexes. Developers will now be allowed to put up to 30 units in a particular building, compared to 12 units under the old policy.

The development density won't change under the new policy, though, since the total number of units per acre of land will remain the same. The change will allow developers more latitude in designing high-density buildings with more so-called "green space," which can be a park or other such undeveloped land.

"That gives us more flexibility where when they build an apartment complex they'll be able to incorporate more green space," said Eddie Williams, the director of community development for Clayton County.