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1st Amendment Adult Book & Video Meets with Town Council Drama

FARMINGDALE, Maine — The owner of an adult bookstore is alleging a special town meeting where voters barred his business from reopening was conducted improperly.

Will Stuart, owner of 1st Amendment Adult Book & Video, said moderator Clifford Goodall mishandled the meeting on Thursday, when residents overwhelmingly voted down articles that would have allowed him to reopen his Maine Avenue business.

Stuart said the special town meeting was illegal because there weren’t enough blue tags for residents to hold in the air when they voted. The town clerk and deputy town clerk handed out blue tags prior to the meeting to identify residents as registered voters.

He said Goodall told people that, if they didn’t have a tag, to just raise their hand to be counted.

But there were so many people at the meeting, Stuart said, nonresidents walked right past the table — where they were supposed to register — and actually voted.

“How do you know if registered voters were voting or not?” Stuart asked. “That’s the point.”

Goodall said the vote was so overwhelming that it wouldn’t have mattered if a few nonresidents voted at the meeting.

He said 289 registered voters attended the meeting. More than 250 voted not to reopen Stuart’s business; about 30 wanted the business to be able to reopen at its recent location.

Also, Stuart said Goodall didn’t allow him to make a motion for secret ballot.

“I asked for a secret ballot vote in the beginning,” Stuart said. “I went up to the table before the meeting and explained who I was and why I wanted a secret ballot vote, and he breezed right through (the meeting) and never offered me the time.”

Goodall, of the law firm Dyer Goodall & Denison in Augusta, said five people approached him before the meeting and indicated they wanted to make a motion for secret ballot, which has to be initiated by voters.

And he told them they had to wait until one article — on whether to allow Stuart to operate a nonconforming business — came to a vote. Stuart filed two petitions for ballot questions in hopes of operating his business within the confines of a 2002 ordinance that restricts where sexually oriented businesses can locate.

Goodall said he had allowed Stuart the opportunity to address voters prior to the vote.

“He started to go back to his seat then turned around and came back and said, ‘One more thing. . . I will ask for a secret ballot on Article 4’,” Goodall said. “Someone in the balcony yelled out, ‘Second!’ and I told Mr. Stuart he needed to raise that (motion) when we got to Article 4. And he said fine and went back to where he was sitting.”

But when Article 4 came to a vote, Goodall said no one spoke up.

The motion never came, so Goodall called for a vote by a show of hands.

“I had promised to recognize them — and none of them made a motion,” Goodall said. “I actually thought that I should ask if they wanted to, but they all knew when they were supposed to make the motion. I figured the vote was so overwhelming against the article that they gave up the idea.”

He said a secret ballot would have drawn out the meeting another hour, but he was prepared, with enough ballots and a ballot box.

“The town meeting is a legislative body,” he added. “(Stuart) had the opportunity to make that motion before the voting process started, and he didn’t do it.”

“I understand his frustration and was surprised he didn’t make the motion. I was waiting for it.”

Meanwhile, Stuart said he plans to put a “For Sale” sign out in front of the building that housed his adult bookstore, which is next to the Town Office and Fire Department on Maine Avenue, the town’s main road.

He said he is considering moving his storefront to another location outside Farmingdale.

Town attorney Mary Denison said Farmingdale has areas where sexually oriented businesses can locate and be in compliance with the 2002 ordinance.

She said 7 percent of the property in Farmingdale, mostly in rural areas, is available for sexually oriented business.

“They tell you where you can open because it’s the law. But putting you 15 miles out, where you can’t get there from here, is almost impossible out in the middle of nowhere,” Stuart said.

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