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June 26, 2013

Judge throws wrench in Tease battle

Judge questions constitutionality of city ordinance

Howard County Superior Court 1 Judge William Menges may have thrown a big wrench into the ongoing court battle over the Tease strip club Tuesday when he questioned whether the city’s adult business ordinance is even constitutional.

The strip club owners are seeking a stay of a December Kokomo Board of Zoning Appeals decision to bar the club from offering adult entertainment. Attorneys for the city of Kokomo are going even further than the zoning board by seeking an injunction to have the club permanently shut down.

Both sides were in court Tuesday to present arguments for and against the stay request, with the club owners arguing the BZA relied on hearsay when it ruled the club’s expansion exceeded zoning limits.

City planning officials revoked the club’s legal non-conforming use status — which allowed the club to offer topless dancing despite not meeting minimum setback requirements — after the owners said they’d already spent more than $200,000 remodeling the near north side club.

“They never once said, ‘You might be non-conforming’ until the very end, when [the owners] were asking for an occupancy permit,” attorney Brian Oaks said. “At the very least, they acted like they were being good government officials to us.”

Central to the owners’ case is the contention that the city relied on a hand-drawn line, marked on a blueprint, which showed where a dividing wall once stood. The city claims the removal of the wall created an additional 907 square feet of space for the club. By expanding the club that much, the owners violated a provision in the zoning code which says a non-conforming establishment can only be expanded twice, and each expansion can add no more than 10 percent to the original footprint.

Oaks contends the zoning provision is only meant to address the footprint of the building, not the removal of interior subdivisions.

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