Committee to create adult-use policy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

A planning commission subcommittee will meet this month to draft an ordinance reflecting zoning policies for adult-use businesses that would eventually be amended into the Unified Development Ordinance, the city’s growth management tool.

The planning commission on Tuesday authorized the committee to bring the proposed ordinance back before the full board in September. If approved, it would then go to the Suffolk City Council for consideration.

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The planning commission’s action was sparked by North Carolina businessman Greg Sakas’ recent attempt to get the necessary permits to open an adult novelty store in Suffolk West Shopping Center. Inventory for the proposed store would include lingerie, adult movies, reading materials, and other novelties.

Last week, the city’s court-appointed Board of Zoning Appeals upheld an earlier decision made by Erik Fox, assistant director of Neighborhood Development Services, that the store is not permissible under the UDO.

Zoning administrators make their decisions by looking at a list of businesses that are permitted for particular zoning areas. If something is not on the list, &uot;it is presumed not to be permitted,&uot; planning director Scott Mills said last week.

Currently, the UDO doesn’t permit adult-use businesses to operate anywhere within the city, Mills added.

Sakas is contending that as long as there isn’t any current adult-use regulation on the books, his business should be judged by the same standards as any other retail establishment.

Sakas, during Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting, said he would be advising his legal team to press forward with a lawsuit challenging the zoning decisions. Later, he said, he is giving the city until Aug. 29 to change its decision.

&uot;This is not the way I want to do this,&uot; Sakas said. &uot;The best thing for all parties would be to let me move in and open.

&uot;I’ve got to make a decision and the city has got to make a decision,&uot; he told commissioners on the subcommittee. &uot;I’m not going to wait until September.

&uot;…You are in error here.&uot;

Sakas owns similar novelty shops in Charlottesville and in several North Carolina localities, including Elizabeth City, Wilmington, Havelock, Wilson, and Lumberton.

Getting the necessary zoning permits and licenses from other localities where his stores are located wasn’t as difficult as it has been in Suffolk, he said.

Prior to his opening his store in Elizabeth City, the city had no adult-use regulations on the books, said Ben Deck, city reporter for The Daily Advance in Elizabeth City. After his store opened there six years ago, city planners tightened zoning regulations enough that similar stores would not be able to open within city limits.

The store, Nite Dreams, was grandfathered so long as it stays in its current location, he said.