INC NEWS - Planned strip club draws fire (today's Herald-Sun)
bwatu at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 30 07:13:53 EST 2005
Planned strip club draws fire
Herald-Sun, 30 November 2005
East Durham activists are criticizing plans for a
strip club off U.S. 70 Business at Ashe Street, going
so far as to say they'll picket the home of the man
who wants to build it.
City/county planners confirmed Tuesday that they're
reviewing a Nov. 10 permit application from roofing
and insulation firm owner Larry Jones, who wants
permission to build a 68-seat adult nightclub on a
1.5-acre parcel he controls through a firm called The
A local architectural firm headed by George Williams
-- a former Durham County manager and the
brother-in-law of City Councilman Howard Clement -- is
designing the 7,223-square-foot building for Jones.
Activists notified of the application's filing by the
city/county planning office say their community
doesn't need the sort of business Jones proposes.
"We have not been able to get developers like George
Williams, the architect for this nightclub, to bring a
bank to East Durham or a library to East Durham," said
the Rev. Melvin Whitley, who's spearheading opposition
to what the application calls the Paradise Nightclub.
"The best they can offer is a strip club. That kind of
bothers me. What are they thinking?"
Neither Jones nor Williams could be contacted Tuesday.
For Jones, the permit filing is his second attempt to
build an adult nightclub along U.S. 70. The first
occurred in 2000, when he tried to secure permits for
a 16,000-square-foot, 112-seat establishment he
intended to call Diamond Girl.
That plan collapsed after the City Council changed the
zoning regulations that cover adult establishments to
say they can't be located within 1,000 feet of
residential zones, churches, day cares, schools, parks
Jones indicated at the time that he didn't intend to
give up without a fight. "It's against my nature to
walk away," he said in an interview shortly after the
His land -- purchased in 1998 -- is zoned for
industrial development and is currently vacant. He's
applied for what city/county planners refer to as a
"minor site plan," a type of permit reviewed by
administrators and approved by Durham's Development
Review Board, Senior Planner Dennis Doty said. The
board doesn't include any elected officials.
The plan includes a parking area underneath the
building, a feature included in an apparent bid to
reduce the amount of paved surface proposed on the
site and thus make sure the application doesn't become
a "major site plan" that requires a City Council
No matter who reviews it, Durham's existing land-use
ordinance ties an approval vote solely to the
project's compliance with the city's regulations and
design standards. There are no provisions for
rejecting a site plan because of its likely effect on
the value of adjoining properties or the public's
health, safety and welfare.
Whitley acknowledged that the law will make it tough
to stop Jones. "I know in order to beat this, we'll
have to beat this on technical grounds," he said.
He nonetheless signaled the start of a largely
political fight, one that would highlight Williams'
involvement in the project and East Durham's
experience with similar clubs.
Whitley noted that East Durham has a well-known
problem with crime and prostitution.
In the first eight months of this year, police
responded to 116 calls for service to quell
prostitution in the area bounded by U.S. 70, East End
Avenue, Angier Avenue and Harvard Avenue.
Activists and city officials also struggled for a long
time to close two strip clubs along Angier Avenue,
Whitley said. Their work started paying off last year
when authorities shut down the Club Royale in April
after accusing it of operating without a license. Two
months later, they won a rare nuisance-abatement case
against the Brothers III club, securing a court order
that forever barred its owners from reopening.
Whitley has contacted three other neighborhood groups,
and the leader of one, Vivian McCoy, in turn contacted
Mayor Bill Bell.
The mayor has asked City Manager Patrick Baker for a
briefing on the application. Activists "say they don't
need any more nightclubs in the neighborhood, and I
tend to agree with them," Bell said.
Whitley said he wants to make sure Williams and Jones
"hear the thunder" activists in East Durham can
generate. He coupled that comment to a threat to
protest on public property outside Jones' house on
"We're going to picket his house," Whitley said. "His
neighbors need to know."
Williams benefited from a divided City Council vote in
August that awarded his firm a $199,620 contract to
design the Walltown Park Recreation Center. The 4-3
majority, which included Clement, overrode Baker's
advice to give the work to a Charlotte firm.
Clement also could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
In October, Bell persuaded an architect who works with
Williams, Bill Gordon, to give up the liquor license
used by a West Main Street nightclub known variously
as Club 1000 or MK's House of Jazz and R&B that was
the scene of three different shootings. Gordon's
decision forced the club to close.
More information about the INC-list