Sangerville public indecency ordinance could ban topless bars

Posted Oct. 15, 2010, at 2:51 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.

SANGERVILLE, Maine — Hoping to prevent the opening of a gentlemen’s club or topless bar in this community, residents have crafted a public indecency ordinance that will need voter action later this month.

The ordinance was spurred by a Portland man’s interest in opening a gentlemen’s club, lounge and nightclub on property he owns on Route 23 in Sangerville. While the businessman has since scrapped the plan because of the public outcry, residents worry that someone else might step in with a similar proposal.

After the property owner filed a notice with the town of his plans for the club earlier this year, about 50 people met with the planning board and selectmen to seek an ordinance to ban nudity or a moratorium on development. A petition signed by more than 230 registered voters requesting a nudity ordinance for business establishments also was presented to town officials.

On Tuesday, the town officials were presented with another petition and a proposed public indecency ordinance that had been reviewed and revised by the town’s attorney to meet local and state requirements. The petition asking for the town meeting vote contained 60 signatures, which represented more than the required 10 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election.

The proposed ordinance is designed to prohibit certain acts of commercial exploitation of human sexuality in commercial or business establishments in town and to protect the health, safety, welfare and morals of the community.

Selectmen are expected to sign the warrant for the town meeting at a special selectmen’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, in the town office. The special town meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, in the fire station.

Other warrant articles for the special town meeting will include: proposed funding for Piscataquis Community High School Project Graduation; a correction to an annual town meeting warrant error in the general government account that should have reflected an amount to be raised of $194,084 rather than the $164,084 that was approved; and consideration of the possible temporary transfer of the former Abbie Fowler School to an organization in town that has an appropriate nonprofit status.

Janet Sawyer, community development specialist with the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, told town officials Tuesday that the town was ineligible for a Maine Department of Environmental Protection revolving loan fund for lead and asbestos abatement in the former school because the town may have played a part in the actual contamination.

One way around that, Sawyer said, is to change the ownership to a nonprofit group in town that would be eligible for the loan. Under an agreement, the town could take the building back at any time.

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