Don’t get your G-string in a wad, but Asheville City Council’s new restrictions on topless bars and other sexually oriented businesses turned out to be anticlimatic.
“We already have a pretty tight ordinance,” City Attorney Bob Oast told Council members during their June 1 work session. For instance, city zoning regulations already restrict where such businesses (called SOBs) can be located, how far apart neighboring ones must be, and how far they must be from schools and churches. In addition, the city has regulations setting a minimum age for patrons and performers and requiring performers to be licensed.
But at Council’s request, Oast has been scrutinizing what additional restrictions the city can impose, in light of new state laws granting local governments more regulatory authority over SOBs. Based on his research, Oast recommended that Council add the following mandates to the city’s existing ordinance:
• Require that establishments offering private booths for customers keep the booths open to view.
• Require that performers’ genital areas remain covered.
• Require servers and other nonperforming staff at SOBs to keep their buttocks, privates and genitals covered.
• Prohibit adult entertainers from touching patrons (the existing ordinance prohibits only the touching of “specified anatomic areas”).
• Prohibit peripheral activities — such as car washes — on the same premises, unless they’re within the same building as the adult establishment.
“I’ll be glad to answer more specific questions,” offered Oast.
Mayor Leni Sitnick, eyeing her fellow Council members, said she hoped there weren’t any. In previous discussions, Oast had reported extensively on the difference between mooning and indecent exposure, in an attempt to explain just how much (or how little — in terms of clothing, that is) Council could legally regulate such establishments.
Oast also recommended that Council extend the current moratorium on new SOBs until the new regulations take effect, later this summer. Council members indicated that they will probably do so at their June 8 formal session.
What price a downtown traffic study?
How does our downtown traffic flow? Let Genesis Group count the ways (or maybe not).
Asheville City Council members are considering contracting with the consulting firm to evaluate the feasibility of opening College Street and Patton Avenue to two-way traffic. Eighty percent of the firm’s fee (estimated at $37,149) may be paid by the Transportation Advisory Committee, Assistant Landscape Architect Alan Glines reported during Council’s June 1 work session. The project is part of an ongoing effort to renovate Pritchard Park, while improving pedestrian and vehicular traffic around the triangular downtown green space.
But cost-conscious Council members wanted more details. Council member Chuck Cloninger observed that — based on an estimated 140 hours of work for the study — the Genesis Group would be paid about $264 per hour. “That’s a lot,” he said, reiterating his earlier concern about the firm’s $1 million plan for Pritchard Park improvements: “I’ve already said they [did] not do a good job. [They’re] consistently designing things we can’t afford.” Cloninger asked staff to get a breakdown of what Genesis’ fee entails.
Council member Barbara Field pointed out that the work the Genesis Group would be doing is crucial to city staff: The firm will take downtown traffic counts, estimate traffic-flow capacity, study fire-response timing, evaluate intersections, suggest on-street parking improvements, and estimate costs.
Glines, a city staffer, indicated that he’ll get the cost breakdown and report back to Council as soon as possible.
Economic-development task force
Asheville City Council members authorized city staff to compile a list of candidates who might serve on a new economic-development task force. Mac Williams, the city’s new economic-development director, said the group will help Dr. David Kolzow — a consultant hired by the city this spring — implement an economic-development plan that’s now in the works.
Council members asked that Williams’ list of candidates be broad and diverse. “We need to be sure that the task force is fully representative,” urged Mayor Sitnick. She also asked that future references to the plan include the words “sustainable” and “comprehensive.”
Williams said he’ll compile a list of about 20 candidates for Council to choose from. The size of the task force has not yet been decided.
Communty meeting June 29
City Council’s next community meeting is set for Tuesday, June 29 at the North Asheville Community Center. City staff will be available to answer questions starting at 6 p.m. that day; at 7 p.m., City Council members will field questions and meet with residents.