SANGERVILLE,Maine — About 50 people met with the planning board Thursday to discuss an ordinance to ban nudity or a moratorium on development since the town is faced with the possibility of a gentlemen’s club, nightclub and lounge being developed on Route 23.
A petition signed by more than 230 registered voters who want a nudity ordinance for business establishments also was presented to the board.
While the planning board listened to the comments aired, residents were told that their efforts were directed to the wrong board.
Based on legal advice from the Maine Municipal Association, Selectman Lance Burgess said Thursday that the petition must be directed to the Board of Selectmen, and it must be signed by 10 percent of the total number of voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election. The petition must ask the board to call a town meeting or referendum election, must contain the warrant article being petitioned and must include the proposed ordinance the petitioners want voters to adopt, he said.
Burgess said the board would discuss the petition at its June 24 meeting.
The petition and the turnout Thursday was prompted by a notice filed by Stephen D. Cardelli of the Portland area of his intent to invest about $300,000 to improve his property for a gentlemen’s club, lounge and nightclub. Cardelli, who did not attend Thursday’s meeting, told the Bangor Daily News earlier this month that he plans to renovate and develop the property and lease it to some acquaintances.
Cardelli is free to do just that since Sangerville has no zoning other than in the shoreland and resource protection zones, according to Gerald Peters, planning board chairman. Since the town has no permitting process, all one needs to do is file an intent to improve a property, he said. The property owner would have to follow the town’s other ordinances.
Peters said the planning board had tried to get residents to adopt zoning ordinances in previous years that would have regulated such businesses, but the ordinances were rejected.
Resident Melissa Randall suggested that it might be time to try such an ordinance again. “I’m as opposed to a straight-up bar coming in that particular location as I am as a strip club there, too. A strip club makes it worse, but I don’t want the bar, either,” she said.
“It’s very clear that the town of Sangerville doesn’t need or want something like that [gentlemen’s club and nightclub],” resident Brian Howard said Thursday. He and others who circulated the petitions easily could have obtained more names had there been more time, he said. “Two hundred thirty is a pretty good number, but by no means is that indicative of how many people are against this in the town.”
If selectmen vote to move forward with an ordinance, a special town meeting likely will be needed to obtain funds for legal counsel, Burgess said. “There’s no way that any of us in this room has the expertise to draft an ordinance” for this matter, he said. An e-mail sent by the Maine Municipal Association to the town said the ordinance could not include a total ban on nudity, which would not be legal, according to court decisions in Maine and across the country. A moratorium, if passed, could under certain circumstances be retroactive since Cardelli plans to develop the business by September 2010.
Howard suggested that the selectmen stick to the fact that the petitioners don’t want business establishments to feature nudity. He agreed to work with selectmen on behalf of the petition signers to help draft the ordinance.