WELLS — Town officials have responded to residents’ concerns about adult businesses in Wells by moving to limit where such business can locate.

The Board of Selectmen passed an emergency land use ordinance amendment on April 9 that would temporarily allow adult businesses to locate only in the town’s light industrial zone, retroactive to April 8. For the amendment to become permanent, residents will have to approve it at the June 11 town meeting. There will be a public hearing on the ordinance on May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Littlefield Room in Wells Town Hall.

Town Manager Jonathan Carter said while some residents don’t want adult businesses in Wells, the town’s attorney has advised that outlawing them is illegal. “Constitutional issues would preclude us from banning that type of business,” Carter said.

Back Door LLC provided the impetus for the ordinance early in April when it applied for a permit to open a business on Route 1 in Wells. Carter described the business as “basically a head shop with adult novelty items.”

Currently there are no such businesses in Wells, he said.

After learning that an adult business sought to locate on Route 1, Carter said he and other town staff members worked through the weekend to draft an ordinance that would limit where such a business could locate.

When selectmen voted to only permit such businesses in the light industrial district, Back Door LLC decided against opening a business in Wells, Carter said.

Land use ordinances can only be approved by town residents, but selectmen can enact a 61-day emergency ordinance, Carter said. They will have to renew the emergency ordinance on June 5 to ensure that until residents vote adult business establishments are banned from all areas of town except the light industrial district.

About a dozen people spoke at the April 9 meeting against allowing an adult business from locating in Wells, especially along Route 1.

Josee Lawrence said she was against such a business, especially one that was to be located next door to the business she co-owns, Bella Tresse Salon on Route 1.

She said when she learned of the business proposal, she spread the word.

“The general consensus was obvious,” Lawrence said. “We don’t want an adult business in town. We certainly don’t want it next to our family-friendly salon.”

Resident Lynne Freeman-Sauer said she had learned of the proposed business possibly locating in town less than an hour before the meeting and her emotions were running high. She said she’s afraid it would negatively impact the town.

“We hear in the news about sex trafficking and child pornography,” Freeman-Sauer said. “Why on earth would we want to contribute to that?”

“I would not want to go to any of the businesses surrounding this proposed business,” she said. “And that means some of the people here would lose my business. … I don’t want our town to be known for having anything like this in our town.”

Freeman-Sauer said she thought such a business would lead to drug trafficking, sex trafficking and prostitution in Wells.

“We don’t need it,” said Justin Batchelder, who owns a trailer park in Wells and said his family has been living in town for 100 years.

“It’s wrong. It shouldn’t be here,” he said.

If the amendment isn’t approved June 11, Carter said, town officials will try to do a better job educating town voters and get it on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Dina Mendros can be contacted at 780-9014 or at:
[email protected]

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