Vote on public indecency ordinance set for August 27
By Dawn Nieters
WILMINGTON- Voters will decide the fate of the recently approved public indecency ordinance, and with it that of the traditional nude recreation area, the Ledges, on Tuesday, August 27 at a special Town Meeting.
Voters will have the opportunity to weigh in, by Australian ballot, from 10 am to 7 pm at the Wilmington Middle High School on Tuesday, following the public informational portion of the meeting, to be held on Monday night at 7:30 pm at the same location.
Selectboard members set the date after taking receipt of a petition from Wilmington resident Kevin Downey, calling for the public indecency ordinance to be rescinded. The petition included over 100 signatures. On Wednesday night, board members discussed whether it was necessary to hold an additional informational meeting prior to the vote, and the format the meeting would follow. Town clerk Susan Manton told the board she believed discussion on the ordinance Monday night would be part of the official Town Meeting, but added she would defer to the judgement of moderator Frank Spencer, who had been researching the issue.
Voters will also be asked to decide Monday night during the official Town Meeting whether non-residents can participate in the discussion and debate on the ordinance. According to Spencer, during that portion of the evening, it would be necessary for voters to agree, by two-thirds majority, to suspend Robert’s Rules of Order under which the meeting will operate, in order to entertain comments from non-residents. The voting body could also agree to recess in order to hear comments from non-residents, which would require only a simple majority.
But the town has more than one option in terms of the format for discussion of the ordinance vote. Spencer said he would recommend the special Town Meeting cover article one, article two in terms of spelling out voting hours, location, etc., and article three, before adjourning the meeting and convening a hearing on the Australian ballot vote. Spencer said the law requires a hearing to be held within 10 days of the vote and added it’s unclear whether discussing article two during the regular course of Monday night’s special Town Meeting adequately meets that requirement.
“If I had to make a decision in the next 10 minutes, I would recommend that a hearing be held after the Town Meeting on Monday,” Spencer said. “That way I know the town is covered.”
Margaret Frost, whose family owns property near Harriman Reservoir, and whose complaints sparked the campaign for a public indecency ordinance, recently asked the board for permission to present information, including visual aids, to the attendees. Board members said Wednesday they are inclined not to permit a presentation of that nature, which was termed “unusual,” but ultimately voters will decide what to hear. “My own feeling is that I certainly don’t need to see any pictures,” Skwirut said.
Board members will also discuss the rationale behind adopting the ordinance, at Monday night’s special Town Meeting. Skwirut said for his part he felt the decision would eventually allow voters to weigh in directly. “Personally, we had a number of meetings last year, and then we had a meeting this year, there was really nothing different said. The same people showed up each time,” Skwirut said of the debate prior to adopting the ordinance. “Maybe it’s cumbersome and maybe it’s the long way around the barn, but at least adopting the ordinance means now that the townspeople themselves are going to get to vote on this issue.”
The voters will meet at 7:30 pm on Monday, August 26, to vote on increasing the number of elected justices of the peace from seven to 10 (article 1) and to transact any non-binding business (article 3) before adjourning to 10 am the following day, when polls open for Australian ballot voting on whether to disapprove the Wilmington Public Indecency Ordinance adopted June 12. Polls will be open until 7 pm.
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