WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Butler County Pleas Judge Craig Hedric ruled Tuesday that West Chester Township officials improperly rescinded a permit for a planned swinger's club.
After a swell of community outrage surrounding the upcoming opening of the Champagne Club, West Chester Township trustees approved a moratorium on “sexual encounter establishments" in November.
The West Chester Board of Trustees considered and approved a moratorium on the licensing and permitting of “sexual encounter establishments” and similar uses in the Township, according to spokeswoman Barb Wilson.
The owners of the Champagne Club out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, wanted to open a second location in West Chester Township before 2016, but the moratorium barred them from obtaining a permit to do so.
“Our clients, when they went in there, were very open -- they said precisely what it was they were going to do," said attorney Tim Burke, who represents the Champagne Club's owners. "They were assured they were in compliance, then the trustees got public pressure from folks who didn’t like, who didn’t think this was a morally appropriate use."
In response to Tuesday's ruling, West Chester Township Administrator Judi Boyko issued a statement saying "In all things, West Chester endeavors to execute in good faith, in compliance with all laws and rules, and with the best interests of the community in mind.
"West Chester respects the judicial appeals process and today's ruling by the judge will be taken into account moving forward. With regard to the specific details of this case, West Chester does not comment on litigation."
BACKGROUND: Sexually-oriented club has neighbors up in arms
The initial outcry came because the “adult nightclub” is about 650 feet away from Cornerstone’s Child Development Center on Commercial Drive in Fairfield.
The day care center's owner and clients said they don't want the club to move in, but the Champagne Club's owners have insisted there will be no impact on the day care center whatsoever. Burke said his clients signed a five-year lease before West Chester revoked their permit and have suffered "real financial damages" as a result of the township's actions.
"Obviously, the clients are pleased with this, but this fight is far from over," Burke said Tuesday. "The zoning approval was also rescinded at the same time that they took away the license for exactly the same reason, so we have to fight that out separately."
As for the moratorium, Wilson said it will allow trustees to study possible changes to the township’s existing zoning and licensing resolutions specifically regarding sexual encounter establishments.
Nowhere in the club owners' statement last week or on the club's website is sexual intercourse mentioned as an offering on the club's premises, but day care owners and families expressed concern over the sort of clientele the club would attract.