Thursday, October 29, 2009

Low Blow

A long-delayed zoning text amendment to regulate sex shops in Alexandria is now docketed for the Planning Commission's November 5 meeting, and one of the staff recommendations included with the text amendment is outrageous.

Le Tache on lower King Street is to be exempt as a grandfathered use, since it has been open for more than a year. However, Lotus Blooms, the swanky store which just opened at 1017 King Street will be forced to close. It is "different," according to the staff report, "and should not be allowed to remain permanently. It violates the pending prohibition on additional stores in the historic district and, under the proposed, would be required to close after 18 months, a reasonable period within which to recoup its limited investment in the retail space."

So let's try to understand this. For a year after Le Tache's opening, Planning & Zoning lallygagged on developing an adult uses amendment.

Yesterday at a Federation of Civic Associations meeting the Growler heard a past president of Old Town Civic Association state that former City Attorney Ignacio Pessoa already had the amendment drafted before he quit, nearly a year ago.

And the Cranky One was even more surprised to learn from West End civic activists at the same meeting that the City promised similar regulations several years ago after the adult theater in Foxchase was finally closed.

Some in our community have also questioned why P&Z's staff didn't check out Lotus Blooms more closely before it opened. Anyone who Googled the business could have found their Web site and a description of the business.

Instead, having let the horse take a leisurely walk through the open barn gate, P&Z is now promoting not only shutting the gate but sending the poor nag to the slaughterhouse to cover up its own inefficiency.

Despite all of the Growler's recent ribbing, the Cranky One doesn't think Lotus Blooms deserves this. It is a high-end shop that was previously located in Georgetown, and in fact many people think it is a much classier act than Le Tache.

Let's hope that common sense and fairness will guide the Planning Commission and City Council when they ultimately make a decision on the text amendment and staff recommendations. Killing off fledgling businesses to cover up staff screw-ups just isn't right.