Worcester Planning Board Backs Zoning Amendment

WORCESTER, Mass. - The Worcester Planning Board last week voted 3-2 in favor of a proposed zoning amendment that would drop many of the distancing requirements for adult businesses in three areas on the outskirts of the city's downtown district, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

A number of local residents who attended the board's public hearing on the matter voiced opposition to the amendment, but city solicitor David Moore argued that it was necessary to prevent the entire zoning law from being struck down in court as unconstitutional.

The city was prompted to change its zoning regulations by a lawsuit filed last year by Brenden Robichaud, owner of the Seven Lounge, who seeks to turn a downtown nightclub into a strip club.

With the proposed amendment, all buffer zones for adult businesses in the designated areas would be dropped, except from bars, other adult establishments and the main city library.

"You cannot zone it out completely," said Moore. "There has to be some place in every city and town where adult entertainment can take place."

Chairman John Shea had to remind those in attendance several times during the hearing that the topic at hand was the city's proposed amendment to its adult entertainment zoning law, not the specific plans of Robichaud.

Board member Margaret Guzman, who said she lives in one of the areas where adult businesses would be allowed under the amendment, said that if the city doesn't revise its zoning law, it will lose all control over adult entertainment.

"If the court finds it unconstitutional, it'll be a free-for-all." Guzman said.

Carolyn M. Conway, one of the three lawyers representing Robichaud, argued that the proposed amendment is not constitutional, either, because it was drafted specifically to keep him from opening a strip club at the desired Main Street location.

The amendment now goes to the City Council for consideration.