A group of residents fed up over Brookhaven City Council’s lawsuit with the Pink Pony strip club have commissioned a telephone poll to prove they aren’t alone.
Five neighborhood homeowners associations – Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields, Drew Valley, Hillsdale, and Pine Hills- sponsored the phone survey.
Conducted by a polling company called Insight 20/20, the telephone poll surveyed a random sample of 505 registered voters from each of Brookhaven’s four City Council districts. The poll asked a series of questions about the city’s lawsuit with the Pink Pony as well as adult businesses in general.
According to the poll results, 74 percent responded that they disagree that the city should continue its legal fight with the Pink Pony.
The Pink Pony, a strip club located just off Buford Highway on the southern end of Brookhaven, sued the city after City Council adopted a new sexually oriented business ordinance earlier this year. The ordinance would ban nude dancing and alcohol, which the club’s owners say would put them out of business.
Kerry Witt, president of the Pine Hills Homeowners Association, said many Brookhaven residents are upset that the council is getting involved in costly litigation so early into the young city’s life.
He said the city has already spent around $40,000 in legal costs surrounding the new ordinance and the Pink Pony litigation.
“That’s a lot of sidewalks we’re missing,” Witt said.
He said for many of the people he’s spoken with, the Pink Pony is not the issue- it’s the costly litigation the city could be involved in for years with the club’s deep-pocketed owners.
“If the $40,000 we spent was all we needed to spend, and the Pink Pony would no longer exist and no other strip clubs would come to Brookhaven, people would be OK with that,” Witt said. “But we haven’t even gone to trial yet. Nobody has any idea what that number is going to end up at.”
Witt said he hopes the poll will make City Council realize that they are acting against what constituents really want. “I can only hope that this kind of highlights to City Council that before they make judgment they need to talk to constituents about what needs to happen,” Witt said.
Councilman Bates Mattison said he doesn’t think the telephone survey really included all of the information, such as the constitutionality of the existing regulations and the negative secondary effects of sexually oriented businesses.
“And so from a citizen information perspective it was a good start, but it missed the boat a little bit in addressing all the concerns we as a city have to take into account,” Mattison said.
Mattison said he would have liked it if the poll had been a joint effort between the neighborhoods and City Hall.
However, he said he’s not surprised by the results of the poll, which indicate that a majority of people feel the council should leave the adult business issue alone.
“It was very reflective of the comments and telephone calls and emails I’ve been getting throughout the time this city’s existed,” Mattison said.
He also pointed out that the mayor and City Council have been very accessible and listen to residents’ concerns regarding the Pink Pony lawsuit.
“I don’t think elected officials have not been hearing the voices of citizens. I can promise you, I hear their voices loud and clear,” Mattison said. “I disagree with the contention that elected officials are not hearing the voice of the people.”
Bill Roberts, a Brookhaven Heights resident, said he and his neighbors have been extremely happy with the direction of the new city – except on this one issue.
“I think it’s a matter of timing, really. The candidates never contemplated this issue during campaigns and runoffs,” Roberts said. “When they created a city and had such a large agenda of items to accomplish … it seems it’s such a pity they’ve been wrapped around the axel on an issue that didn’t even make the radar screen when they were campaigning.”
Roberts said the poll results seem consistent with what he’s been hearing from neighbors he runs into at Starbucks or Publix.
“I think you could sum it up by saying there doesn’t seem to be a preponderance of people saying they’re so concerned about this issue that it needs to be addressed immediately,” he said. “Maybe this could be put off for another day, rather than an immediate action needing to occur.”
Mayor J. Max Davis said he thinks the poll misses the point that the city’s ordinance is not just about the Pink Pony.
“Transplant the Pink Pony to your neighborhood and ask, ‘Do you think we should have an ordinance that regulates that type of business?’” Davis said. “Whether there’s a strong possibility or a very small possibility of strip clubs coming to Brookhaven, we have a duty to protect neighborhoods. We can’t take the attitude that we hope and cross our fingers that there won’t be a proliferation of strip clubs.”