The Council for Quality Growth, along with several other organizations, were successful in our attempt to protect the property rights of Council members at the City of Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board hearing. The Board voted 2-1-1 to not recommend the city move forward with the ordinance, even as amended to only include certain adult businesses.
The ordinances, if approved before being amended by Councilman Wan, would have sunset all non-conforming businesses along two parts of Cheshire Bridge Road, zoned to the Neighborhood Commercial Districts NC 4 and NC 5. This issue raises serious property rights concerns. Existing grandfathered businesses would have had two years to adhere to the zoning requirements. If they could not, they would be able to apply to the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) to be considered for an additional two-year “amortization period” to allow the businesses to recoup their investment. However, if a business leases the property there does not appear to be any compensation scheme for the property owner for the loss of lease revenue or property improvements. There are numerous businesses that would be affected. The NC District prohibits auto repair shops, car washes, bakeries or catering establishments that are more than 2,000 square feet, and retail and restaurant uses if more than 8,000 square feet.
If the ordinances had been approved before being amended, or even in the amended form, it could set the precedent for amortization of non-conforming uses in other parts of the metro area. The City of Sandy Springs enacted legislation requiring the amortization of adult businesses within its boundaries in 2009 and has been in court defending the legislation ever since, in a costly legal battle. The Council for Quality Growth is concerned about the possible chilling effect of this ordinance on economic development. The number and locations of the nonconforming uses affected by the proposed ordinances should be evaluated in order to better understand the impacts of the proposed ordinances.