Albemarle planning board tables drag show zoning amendment

At Thursday’s meeting of the Albemarle Planning Board, the board voted 7-0 to table a proposed amendment to add drag shows to the city’s adult cabaret definition.

Planning board members Kent Harkey and Marcus Allen and city attorney Britt Burch were not in attendance at the meeting.

City senior planner Travis Swain, speaking to the board, said staff “had some questions about board procedures” regarding the proposed amendment.

He said Burch had provided some case examples for the planning board. Swain said “it would be better for her to advise you” rather than city staff.

“If you want to continue that one to next month, we can make sure we can have everyone here for that,” Swain said.

The agenda for the meeting showed a request from Dr. Brian L. Johnson of The Life Change Group to add wording to include drag shows under the definition of a “sexually oriented business” as what could be performed at an “adult cabaret.”

Drag shows are defined as “live performances where individuals, regardless of biological sex, perform in exaggerated clothing and makeup to impersonate and often satirize gender stereotypes and cultural norms. Drag shows may include lip-syncing, singing, dancing, comedy and other forms of recognized artistic expression. While drag shows may incorporate sexual innuendo or suggestive humor, they do not necessarily involve the exposure of specified anatomical areas or specified sexual activities.”

The proposed changes would also delete the word “regularly,” and the phrase “as one of its principal business purposes.” The definition of an adult cabaret would read, “A nightclub, bar, restaurant or other commercial establishment that features, exhibits or displays: 1) Persons who appear nude or semi-nude; 2) Live performances which are characterized by the exposure of specified anatomical areas or by specified sexual activities, or 3) Films, motion pictures, video cassettes, slides or other photographic reproductions which depict or describe specified sexual activities or specified anatomical areas.”

The definition, if recommended with the suggested changes by the planning board at its next meeting Sept. 7, would then go before the Albemarle City Council for approval or denial.

When asked by the public why the board member and attorney were not at the meeting, Vice Chairperson Michelle Cumming said, “she probably was dealing with another case but at this moment we don’t know the true story” of why they were not there.