Hot and bothered

The city's ordinance governing topless clubs is a joke. But Bachman Lake-area residents are determined to get rid of the clubs by any means necessary.

Lyons does believe the presence of SOBs can undermine neighborhoods over time, even if they don't set the initial spark. "Once the process begins...it will be much harder for neighbors to halt the decline of their property values," he says.

But warding off SOBs will become increasing difficult, he says, with the advent of growing pornography sales and swelling industry coffers. Roger Albright, attorney for Mainstage Inc., suggests another tack for city officials and neighbors: "Instead of complaining the topless bars are running everybody out, throw some money in and help the neighborhood."

Already, this process is occurring. Bachman Lake residents have begun the hard work of rebuilding their neighborhood with graffiti paint-outs and grassroots organizing to block zoning exemptions allowing more bars and clubs -- sexual and non-sexual -- to move in. City planners and community members last year drafted a revitalization plan that calls for a pedestrian bridge over busy Northwest Highway to Bachman Lake, beautification measures, and an analysis of streetscape design. State officials recently rejected a grant request to fund the plan, but city officials will try again soon.

Without a doubt, neighborhood improvement is a much better use of city funds than fighting lawsuits. A city-brokered accommodation that settles most SOB lawsuits could allow the city to focus more on citizens -- and head off eventual victory by legal-minded SOBs that strikes down all or most regulation of their industry.

But selling this message will prove difficult, because even well-thought-out compromises produce losers. "The only problem is that with the accommodation, our neighborhood gets turned into the city's red-light district," Tim Dickey says. "Our message to the city: Stay the course. Don't blink. Full speed ahead."

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