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Sexy Phone Call Prompts Adult Entertainment By-law Proposals

LENOX , Massachusetts– Town planners took to heart a phone message left on the building inspector’s answering machine late last year.

A woman, speaking somewhat suggestively, described to the inspector her plans to open an “adult entertainment” nightclub within the town’s borders. At the end of the message, she asked, “Do you have anything in place in your bylaws to prevent me?”

“It was very convincing,” said Linda Procopio-Messana, chairwoman of the Planning Board, who realized the message was not meant to be taken literally, but rather as a warning — one to be heeded.

So Monday, March 1, at 7 in Town Hall, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on zoning bylaw changes that would regulate adult entertainment. Now, such venues can be built anywhere within the business district.

“I am certain when the founding fathers of Lenox were writing the bylaws, adult entertainment was not on their minds,” said Procopio-Messana. “Now we can regulate it should we need to.”

According to Procopio-Messana, no applications for such a use have come before the town.

The proposed amendment would confine adult entertainment to the one-acre commercial district. The C1a zone is along Routes 7 and 20, from the Luau Hale restaurant to the Pittsfield town line. The proposed bylaw also would stipulate other aspects, such as prohibiting adult venues from malls or from having any windows, and stating that signs cannot be suggestive.

Adult entertainment uses are defined as adult clubs where “live nudity is on display,” or adult bookstores, movie theaters, video stores or paraphernalia stores defined so because more than 25 percent of the inventory consists of such items. Applicants also would have to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals to obtain a special permit to open.

The purpose of the March 1 hearing is to provide residents with a chance to comment on the proposed amendments. The board hopes to bring the changes before voters at the annual town meeting in May.

Voters in Great Barrington also will decide on adult entertainment zoning regulations at a special town meeting on March 16.

The boards in both towns took up the issue after a Holyoke man tried to open a topless bar in Pittsfield last year. Although the application was rejected for being incomplete, the city has no legislation restricting the location of such bars.

Adult entertainment venues are protected uses under the First Amendment; planners can’t prohibit them from opening, but they can regulate their location.

The Lenox hearing also will address a bylaw amendment that would limit the number of apartments permitted in the upper floors of nonresidential buildings in the downtown area.

Procopio-Messana said the bylaw would allow the apartments currently established to remain but would prevent any more from being built. She said there is not enough parking to accommodate more apartments downtown.

 

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