An adult entertainment club in DeKalb County attempting to expand its building has been stuck in a permit process for four years.
Dennis Williams, chief financial officer and vice president of the parent company of Pink Pony, said the company in the 1980s constructed women’s and men’s bathrooms and locker rooms for entertainers.
Now, Pink Pony owners want to “upgrade these so that we will have nice improvements to offer our staff,” Williams said during an Oct. 23 Board of Commissioners’ meeting. These additions will “add some comfort and a better amenity for our customers.”
The board deferred a vote on the expansion until Nov. 20.
While the Board of Commissioners’ agenda item stated the request was to expand Pink Pony’s premises, Williams said, “We’re not expanding the adult use as far as the entertainment venue. We’re just expanding approximately 1,600-plus square feet on the rear of the building to build the restrooms and locker rooms.”
Williams said Pink Pony began the application process in 2008 by submitting a permit application and an $8,000 fee.
Questions about a 2007 settlement agreement between DeKalb County and adult entertainment club owners have delayed the permitting process, said Simon Bloom, an attorney representing Pink Pony.
Prior to 2007 there was an ordinance that made it illegal to sell alcohol at adult entertainment establishments. The county reached an agreement with those existing establishments to allow them to continue to operate as they had, according to county spokesman Burke Brennan.
The settlement agreement empowers the Board of Commissioners “to approve applications for modifications to structures and the properties that were all governed by that settlement agreement,” Bloom said.
The agreement states “that if you want to expand the property [or] modify the building itself, you can do that. You’ve just got to go through the building permit process set forth by the county code.”
That’s what Pink Pony representatives started in 2008, Bloom said.
Oasis Goodtime Emporium, another adult club in DeKalb County, went through a similar expansion, Bloom said. That club’s application was submitted shortly after Pink Pony’s and was approved within five days, he said.
“The Pink Pony has languished since 2008 with no permit,” Bloom said. “The expansion …is for bathrooms, storage and offices. It’s not more dance floor; it’s not more bar seating.”
“I think this county’s got to focus on an equal and fair and objective application of its code to this settlement agreement such that this application be approved,” Bloom said.
The permit has not been granted, said Marian Eisenberg, a county zoning administrator, because “currently the expansion of a nonconforming use is prohibited.”
For Pink Pony to get into conformity there would have to be a public process, the issuance of a special land use permit for late night establishments and the business would have to meet all the supplemental regulations for adult entertainment and be issued many variances, Eisenberg said.
Additionally, Eisenberg said the facility is 449 feet from an apartment complex, 296 feet from a church, doesn’t have two driveways according to county requirements and doesn’t meet the county’s parking ratio standards.
Bloom said the county “grandfathered this property” with “all of its ills.”
“The county entered into a settlement agreement in 2007 that says, ‘We know that everything you’ve got now is legally noncomforming by virtue of our settlement agreement.’”
Commissioner Jeff Rader said, “We have a consent agreement with this class of business that has a provision for commission approval of physical expansion. What I’m trying to find out [is] if there is a catch-22 that somehow says that we have this agreement that has this provision but we won’t grant it to anyone because of the nature of their business.”
Eisenberg said the difference between the expansion of Oasis Goodtime Emporium and Pink Pony’s proposed expansion is that Oasis enclosed a patio.
“That was not a new footprint expansion. It was just an enclosure,” Eisenberg said, although she later admitted that she has not reviewed the application to determine whether it was for an expansion.
Bloom produced a June 2009 email from a county zoning officer who stated the Oasis project was “adding 920 square feet to the existing building.”
“This is a business for adult entertainment, and my interpretation of the zoning ordinance…warrants denial,” the zoning officer wrote. “This project is reminiscent of the Pink Pony attempting a similar addition.”
Bloom said, “The planning department says it’s the same exact thing. Somebody somewhere figured that it was OK because the planning department issued a building permit.
“These are horses of the same feather and the results need to be the same,” Bloom said.