Adult Bookstore Move Angers New Neighbors

Tod Hunter
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Adult store Central Avenue Video and News has operated on Central Avenue since the mid-1990s, but news that the business might relocate has angered residents near the proposed new location.

A hearing for a zoning variance that would allow the store to move to the new location is planned on Tuesday. The hearing was requested by Central Avenue Video owner John McMillan.

Neighbors of the store's current location said they weren't aware of any problems related to the business in recent years.

"I knew it was there, but I hadn't really thought about it," Krista Woitkiewicz, a member of a nearby neighborhood association, said.

Police Officer Kevin Weaver of the Eastway Division, which patrols the area, said a check of police records back to January 2005 found no crimes that appear related to Central Avenue Video's operation, and police records available at the police department website show 162 reported incidents in one year within a quarter mile of the store's address. The report listed one rape and one sex offense, but nearly two-thirds of the crimes reported were against property.

"Veterans Park [across the street from the store] and the large number of homeless were the major factor for a lot of the incidents in that stretch," Weaver wrote in an email to the Charlotte Observer. "With the demolition of [nearby apartments] and efforts to find work and housing for the homeless in Veterans Park, the numbers should see a reduction."

Only four residential properties appear to be within 1,500 feet of the proposed bookstore building, according to a city attorney. Most nearby land is zoned commercial and industrial.

If McMillan can show other factors like traffic provide a sufficient barrier between his business and the homes, the board may grant the variance, the city attorney said, pointing out that a previous board granted a similar variance on that reasoning.

Several adult businesses, including two owned by McMillan, sued the city over its 1994 adult business zoning regulations and a 1999 sexually oriented business licensing ordinance, preventing enforcement of the laws until the case was settled.

In September 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen ruled in the city's favor on all challenges to the business licensing ordinance. Some of the challenges to the zoning ordinance were upheld, but the judge ruled that other parts of that lawsuit could only be decided by a trial.

The trial had been scheduled to start Monday but has been moved to November because of the zoning variance request.

Cary Wiggins, an attorney for McMillan, said he could not guarantee McMillan would close the Central Avenue store if he gets the Statesville Road variance.

"John is trying to show good faith by getting it out of the commercial zone and getting it to an industrial zone next to a truck depot," Wiggins said.