Residents vow to fight strip clubs

September 13, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - It was standing-room only in the Jefferson County Commission chambers Thursday as more than 50 people showed up to express concerns over a possibility that a strip club would be located in a building along U.S. 340 near Shipley Elementary School.

Some vowed to fight any strip club that moves in the area, even though Commissioner Jane Tabb read a letter from the owner of the property saying there were no plans to locate a strip club there.

Because exotic dance clubs are not regulated in the county's land-use laws, commissioners directed the Jefferson County Planning Commission to hold a public hearing to gather public input on a proposal to bar any strip clubs from opening in the county for six months.


The six-month stay would give the planning commission time to study whether changes should be made to the county's zoning and development and review an ordinance to restrict strip clubs to certain areas of the county, said Paul Raco, executive director of the county's department of planning, zoning and engineering.

After holding the hearing, the planning commission will recommend to the commissioners whether a stay should be put in place, Raco said.

Commissioner James G. Knode questioned whether the stay would be useful considering the time it would take to conduct a public hearing. A strip club could be set up by the time the planning commission decides whether to implement a stay, Knode said.

It could take between five weeks and five months for the planning commission to decide on the stay, the commissioners said.

Commissioners agreed that the public hearing has to be held within 60 days.

Ray Love, a pastor of a local church, said after the meeting that there was a rumor that a strip club is going to be located on property near Shipley Elementary School and Carriage Park subdivision, which is north of Charles Town.

Faye and Dewey Heffner own the property, Love said.

Faye Dewey, who owns Little Country Store with her husband in Loudoun County, Va., said in a telephone interview Thursday there are no plans to put a strip club on the property. Dewey said the rumor was started when a man in Jefferson County posted the rumor in a chatroom on the Internet.

Dewey said she tried to call the man but has not been able to contact him.

"It's a bunch of people that don't know what they are doing," Dewey said.

Dewey said the property consists of nine acres and a vacant building. The building once housed a recreational vehicle dealership, but it has moved, Dewey said.

Dewey said her son hopes to operate a haunted house in the building in October, but that is the only planned use for it.

The letter from the Deweys read: "There will be no, I repeat, no strip club of any type allowed in that location as long as Faye and Dewey Heffner own that property, which we have no intention of selling any time in the near future. Sorry for any rumors that may have upset any of Jefferson County residents."

Despite the letter, those who came to the commission meeting vowed to fight any attempt to put a strip club on the property.

"I'm going to fight it with all that is in me. As God gives me breath, I will fight it," said Al Cameron, pastor of the Bible Baptist Church in Kearneysville, W.Va.

Lavarr McBride, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., read a five-page statement warning of the effects that pornography and adult businesses can have on a community.

McBride, who teaches at American University and works for the federal judiciary in Washington, said a recent study conducted by law enforcement in Phoenix showed that a community with a pornography business experienced 47 percent more property crimes, 44 percent more violent crime and other crime increases.

"It frightens me. We as a community will fight this," said McBride, whose comments were followed by a loud applause.

Jefferson County has two strip clubs and Berkeley County has eight.

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