Gay Naturist History
Greater Atlanta Naturist Group has become the envy of other gay naturist clubs around the country as they made history in the gay naturist community with the recent purchase of their own property. Other gay naturist clubs may claim to be "landed," but GANG, which was organized in September of 1984, is the first to actually own their own property for their members to use at any time.
After many years of talking and dreaming about it, this sixteen-year-old naturist organization finally "bit the bullet" in May of this year and purchased a small farm within an hour's drive south of Atlanta. The wooded 7.66-acre parcel already has a 30' x 60' two-story unfinished block structure (future clubhouse) which contains a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor over a double-car garage and workshop on the ground level. In addition, there is a vinyl-lined 16' x 32' in-ground pool and a small pool house/office building with its own bath. The main building also has a "lean-to" barn with three horse stalls and a tack room.
GANG has named the newly purchased property Waldencamp, due to its heavily wooded acreage. Even so, there is plenty of room for parking and for the addition of a volleyball court, without the removal of any trees. The group hopes to soon be able to camp on the site. Future plans also call for a bunk room or other accommodations in the clubhouse.
After taking possession in mid-May, GANG immediately scheduled a couple of clean-up days to help get the grounds in shape for member's immediate use. In addition to installing an outside stairway up to the deck which wraps around three sides of the upper floor, they also installed a couple of outdoor showers by the poolhouse/office building. In addition to extending the privacy fencing which already exists around the swimming pool, the group hopes to soon add additional privacy fencing and landscaping around the perimeter of the property.
Even though they now have a club-house and pool, GANG will continue to utilize member's homes for parties in the metro area.
Purchase riles rural neighbors and stirs moral and legal controversy within county.
Although Greater Atlanta Naturist Group is to be commended for taking this historic step, there are some of the group's neighbors in rural Meriwether County who apparently do not want GANG as a neighbor!
According to county code, GANG must have a conditional use variance to use their new property as a "non-profit, private club for recreational purposes." When two of GANG's members appeared before the County Planning Commission on behalf of the group in May, five county residents spoke out against the variance and the committee voted 3-1 to recommend against issuing the permit. The decision, however, is ultimately up to the county board of commissioners.
Residents stated concerns over public alcohol consumption, potential excessive noise levels and possible violations of Georgia's public indecency laws. One resident was fearful that GANG was going to open a "nudist colony," which he did not approve of. He and his wife own and operate a trailer park three miles away.
So far the objections to GANG's proposed use of the property have been largely on moral grounds.
County Attorney Dan Lee, when asked if nudity is a crime in itself, said, "No," but added that since GANG solicits members over its Web site, it could be considered a commercial enterprise rather than a "club" as defined under the county zoning ordinance, and would be subject to different zoning requirements.
In addition to flooding Lee and other county officials with complaints, residents circulated flyers critical of GANG and urging local residents to voice their opposition to the rezoning at the scheduled County Commission meeting in June.
Headlined ALERT, ALERT, the flyer stated "They are trying to get a permit to have a club which is for the sole purpose of being nude outdoors... to put it simply, these are a group of 300 homosexual men who want to walk around in the nude for their enjoyment. This area they have purchased is in a residential area with many children and God fearing folks ... THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!!! The police have already been out there many times this month for reports of open nudity and drinking."
Meriwether County Sheriff Dan Branch confirmed that his officers have answered a number of bogus complaints but found no violations of the law.
One neighbor said, "Out there by the pool, you can't see them good, but you can tell what they're doing." His wife added, "I have nothing against gay people, but I don't want to be forced to look at them. We've been here since 1978 and I don't think it's right. Why should I be forced to pick up and move because of them?"
One neighbor sent GANG a threatening e-mail stating: "You need to keep your ass's out of Meriwether County. We the residents of Allie's Road are not going to set back and let you come in here. This family living not for preverts [sic] like you. You'll have a hell a fight from us country hicks."
Sheriff Branch says that while nudity could possibly be observed through cracks in the fence, poolside activity would probably not be visible to a causal passerby, even in a school bus. "You'd really have to look hard to see anything," he says. "And chances are anybody who got close enough to see anything might be trespassing and violating their [GANG's] rights."
Variance Requirements Met.
GANG, with close to 200 members, meets all the county's requirements for the conditional use variance and there are no legal grounds for it to be denied. But for some people, the main concern is not property values, but morality. Neighbors even called out Atlanta's Fox Channel 5 News on Sunday, June 4th, and summoned sheriff's deputies to Waldencamp again on the same evening with false reports of open nudity on the property.
"We chose to live down here to get away from problems like that and we have always been surrounded by nice people," said the owner of the trailer park. "But now I'm afraid my child might be molested, because homosexuals are known pedophiles. We won't stop until they're out," she adds. "And they will be out of here if we have to go to the Supreme Court. If they're allowed to do this here, then everyone in every neighborhood everywhere is not safe."
Not everyone in Meriwether County, however, is opposed to GANG. One of the owners of a new restaurant that recently opened on the square in nearby Greenville, Georgia says, "I think they should leave them alone. Besides, I think the more diverse the community the better."
A female friend of the property's former owner said she didn't understand the problem. "They're not out wandering around naked. Maybe they go skinny dipping in the pool, but that's behind a fence. I've been skinny dipping there myself amd don't see that they're bothering anybody."
GANG, meanwhile, has hired a local Meriwether County attorney to represent them in the ongoing controversy. For the time being, the variance application has been withdrawn and the group's attorney is looking into the possibility of bringing suit against those who have so maliciously slandered GANG in their fight to keep them out of the county.
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