It never came to pass, but in the days leading up to a local nightclub’s changeover to adult entertainment, Mayor Matt McKillip tried to engineer a last-minute zoning problem for the Ultimate Place 2B.

There are conflicting opinions as to when the club, 5126 Clinton Drive, converted into a strip club.

But even before owner Dan L. Dumoulin II installed stages and poles for topless dancers, city officials were scrambling to devise a strategy to shut the adult activity down.

Ultimately, the Kokomo Plan Commission cited Dumoulin for operating an adult business within 500 feet of a “church or similar place of worship,” claiming a room used as a prayer chapel at the MedOne walk-in doctor’s office, 5111 Clinton Drive, qualified as a place of worship.

Tuesday, the Kokomo Board of Zoning Appeals upheld the zoning violation by a 3-1 vote. Dumoulin’s attorney, Brad Hamilton, has vowed to appeal the decision in civil court, and topless dancing continues at the club.

But focusing on the MedOne chapel, which was remodeled to include a crucifix, a religious tapestry and a kneeler right around the start of topless dancing across the street, was only one of the ways city officials tried to establish a zoning violation against Dumoulin.

In the days prior to Dumoulin’s September changeover, city administration approached local landowner Welby Vitatoe in hopes of acquiring property to create a new city park, McKillip and local Realtor Jim Ferguson confirmed Thursday.

The city’s zoning ordinance also forbids sexually oriented businesses from locating within 500 feet of a public park.

“There were not any serious negotiations made,” Ferguson said. “They were really not any more than conversations.”

Ferguson said he was approached by McKillip about the idea, and had follow-up discussions with Phil Williams, president of the city Board of Public Works and Safety. McKillip said he delegated the work to Williams.

“I would be in favor of anything that would prevent this kind of destructive development,” McKillip said Thursday. “It’s been proven to cause crime, it’s been proven to drop property values.”

McKillip said he had hoped to receive a donation of property, because he wasn’t going to buy it with taxpayer money.

Vitatoe, an 85-year-old retiree living in Florida, was reluctant to part with any of his land near the Ultimate, partially out of fear of becoming embroiled in a lawsuit, Ferguson said.

“All he really wants to do is sell his property,” Ferguson said of Vitatoe’s 22 acres along Cartwright Drive, just to the east of the Ultimate. “He’s not really interested in other deals.”

In the late 1990s, a local businessman purchased the property where the Ultimate now stands from Vitatoe, who owned most of the property close to the east side of U.S. 31 between Center Road and Albany Drive. When the businessman passed away, his family sold the property to the Dumoulin family, against Vitatoe’s wishes, Ferguson said.

Kokomo Plan Commission Director Glen Boise, who said he was aware of the property discussions, said it was doubtful the city could have finished an ownership transfer and established a park before Dumoulin started offering topless dancing.

“When rumors of that activity started, we were dealing in days, rather than months,” Boise said.

By law, a park’s existence would have had to predate the start of adult entertainment to create a zoning violation.

Dumoulin’s attorney called the attempt “a last-ditch effort for the mayor to achieve his political goals.”

Hamilton also questioned the mayor’s acceptance of a $605 political donation from Don Draper, owner of the Hip Hugger, another topless club in Kokomo.

Draper made the donation during McKillip’s 2003 mayoral campaign.

“I find his devotion to putting [The Ultimate Place 2B] out of existence incompatible with his acceptance of a political donation from a topless bar less than two miles from Mr. Dumoulin’s establishment,” Hamilton said.

Dumoulin’s mother, Joan Dumoulin, brought up the donation during Tuesday’s zoning board hearing.

McKillip defended his acceptance of the donation at the hearing, saying Draper had made the contribution during a campaign golf outing.

“My golf outing was open to the public. Many individuals I know and don’t know came to my golf outing,” McKillip said. “They came to support me and my vision of the city’s future. They didn’t come because I support their business or their way of making money.”

Scott Smith may be reached at (765) 454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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