Alpharetta toughens massage ordinance

City wants crack down on prostitution

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. – It’s a touchy subject, but Alpharetta City Council members took steps at the June 17 council meeting to more tightly restrict massage parlors in the city which can be a haven for prostitution.

City Attorney Sam Thomas said the ordinance governing massage businesses was modified in an attempt to curb prostitution activities connected to spa and massage therapy establishments.

Councilmembers gave initial approval 6-0 – Councilman Michael Cross was absent – to the ordinance.

This ordinance has gone through several changes so this is a first reading. The issue will come back to council for final approval in two weeks.

The ordinance calls for random inspections during business hours. It also includes a dress code for massage therapists and stipulates that massage areas will be in open spaces.

Thomas said Georgia already has a rigid scheme to regulate massage therapists and licensing.

“We tweaked it a little bit to comply with some current case law,” Thomas said. “So when the state issues a license they will not have to go through the procedure to acquire a permit, they will just have to provide us a notice of that.”

Terry Sharp, co-owner of LaVida Massage, spoke in favor of the direction of the new ordinance.

“I applaud the city and the residents who are doing something about getting rid of the massage parlors,” Sharp said. “Putting in an ordinance like this is very positive for those of us who have legitimate businesses.”

The licensed massage therapist said his main concern is with how the regulations will be enforced. He will be working with Thomas to produce the best regulations for massage therapy establishments.

“We’re in a better direction than we were,” Sharp said after the meeting.

ALSO AT THE MEETING:

• Alpharetta unanimously approved the 2014 ad valorem tax rate. The budget tax rate was set at $5.75 mills on 40 percent of each $1,000. With $4.87 mills on 40 percent for general government purposes and $0.88 on 40 percent of each $1,000 for purposes of retiring outstanding general obligation bonds.

• Councilmembers approved a yearlong contract for weekly food truck events. The food truck alley is held every Thursday until October, with the exception of July 4, and it currently hosts about six food trucks in downtown Alpharetta.

Residents and business owners in the area spoke to the council in support of the food truck events off Milton Avenue.

Alpharetta City Council members say the event brings locals together and gives it a more pleasant atmosphere. It also brings crowds into downtown creating more revenue.

The food truck events cost the city $800, but Mayor David Belle Isle said he believes the costs can be reduced to zero.

• Voted to hold general elections. The council unanimously approved elections for city council and established candidate qualifications.