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Forest Park adult ordinance in 'limbo'

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Forest Park City Council narrowly passed a revision of the city's controversial adult-entertainment ordinance after a public hearing on Monday. But confusion over amendments to the proposed ordinance may result in the city reconsidering the vote entirely.

During the council's regular business meeting, members voted 3-2 in favor of passing a new ordinance revising the city's March adult-entertainment ordinance, which instituted a number of new, strict guidelines concerning the operation of strip clubs. Council members Debbie Youmans, Donald Judson and Linda Lord voted Monday in favor of the new ordinance, while council members Maudie McCord and Sparkle Adams voted against it.

Prior to the vote, however, Youmans introduced a motion, which was seconded, to strike two sections of the ordinance proposed for consideration Monday -- one section that would prohibit the sale of alcohol in strip clubs after Jan. 1, 2010, and another section which would make it "unlawful for any person to appear in any portion of an adult entertainment establishment or any other business open to the public in a state of nudity."

The ordinance up for consideration Monday would also allow club patrons to tip dancers. Direct tipping was prohibited under the March ordinance.

After passage of the March ordinance, Jack Galardi -- owner of the Crazy Horse Saloon and Pink Pony South in Forest Park -- sued the city for $70 million in federal court in Atlanta. The city agreed not to enforce the March ordinance until a judge could determine its constitutionality.

Without Youmans' amendments, adult dancers would be confined to wearing a combination of "pasties, G-strings, T-backs, dental floss, and thongs" during all performances. In addition, alcohol sales in strip clubs would be considered illegal after the new year.

On Monday, Youmans said the more lenient revisions to Monday's proposal were requested by her constituents.

"I think it's in the best interest of the city," Youmans said. "I made the decision based on all the information I received and from hearing from my constituents."

There was confusion among members of the council, however, as to whether Youmans' amendments were introduced following Roberts' Rules of Order. Some council members expressed differences of opinion when questioned about the meaning of their vote.

"We were voting against the nudity and alcohol," McCord said on Monday night. "We just wanted it [the March ordinance] to stay the same. It wouldn't have been fully-clothed dancing, it just wouldn't be nude dancing."

"The motion was not made properly, so it construed the results," Lord said Monday. "We were voting on the amendments, but there were words put in there that definitely threw me off. Something will be done. I have already talked to the city manager."

Forest Park City Manager John Parker described Monday's vote on the adult-entertainment ordinance as being in a state of "limbo."

"We're not quite clear as to what passed," Parker said. "That's part of what we have to figure out."

Forest Park City Attorney Joe Harris said the city will likely have to conduct another public hearing and that the council will likely have to vote on the ordinance again during its next regular meeting on Dec. 21.

"If it's going to be done, it is going to be done right, by the book," Harris said. "We may run another [public] ad, have another public hearing, and then have a reconsideration."

In another matter on Monday night, the council voted unanimously to amend the city's zoning ordinances to create a Forest Park Main Street Overlay District.

The district -- a key component of the city's plan to revitalize its downtown area, and ultimately, to redevelop Fort Gillem -- institutes architectural guidelines in the downtown district on all new construction and renovations in which 60 percent or more of a structure is destroyed or altered.

Rosalind Rubens Newell, legal counsel for Forest Park's Main Street Overlay District, believes the new district will eventually give Forest Park's downtown a uniform, attractive look, amenable to pedestrian traffic.

"They [the City Council] want buildings that will have architectural interest," she said. "All the entrances [to businesses] will be articulated to the street. That engages pedestrians and the community. It makes the parking secondary, opposite to the way it is now. There are changes to the lighting to [allow citizens to] be safer and feel safer."

Newell said people who already own or occupy homes or buildings within the Main Street Overlay District will not be required to renovate their property. However, she said the city will have the ability to redevelop blighted areas using revenue generated by the city's Tax Allocation District.

"Although they will have a lot of priorities [using TAD funds], it is something they can consider," Newell said. Downtown Forest Park is "going to be as nice and quaint and 'shopable' as downtown Decatur," she said.