Hancock County Residents To Speak Out On Strip Club Proposal

Thursday, Hancock County residents have their chance to let county leaders know how they feel about strip clubs coming to town. In the last two weeks, two developers have applied for permits to open clubs with nude dancing.

Up for debate Thursday is a proposal for a gentlemen's club on Highway 90 between Royal Oak and Lakeshore Roads.

The phones haven't stop ringing at the Hancock County Planning and Zoning office since news of a proposed gentlemen's club became public.

"We've had overwhelming response. The calls are averaging between 20 and 25 a day on this issue alone. It's certainly the most controversial issue that I've seen since I've started with the county over a year ago," Hancock County Building Official Mickey Lagasse said.

The proposed strip club location is zoned commercial, but developers need a special exception to the zoning ordinance because of the nature of the business. A public hearing is required before commissioners can make their decision.

"It's very emotionally charged. We either have people very much for it or very much against it. There's not a lot of middle of the road."

The eleven churches that make up the Hancock County Ministerial Alliance oppose the club.

Al Green, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Bay St. Louis, said, "I believe it just really lowers the moral standards that our community presents its youth. I've been doing a lot of studying on this and have found some surveys. One in Los Angeles really shows some staggering figures about the crime rate has gone up, how property has been devalued as a result of it."

Opponents of the strip club have gathered nearly 300 signatures against the plan. Hundreds are expected to voice their opinion at Thursday's hearing.

"We're going to ask people to limit their comments to five minutes. We're going to ask those people to speak one at a time. We are going to have a court reporter who can only accept one voice at a time. We are going to have deputies there," Lagasse said.

Planning commissioners hope to have an orderly hearing so all voices can be heard.

The public hearing will be held Thursday, July 1st at the Hancock County Civic Center on Longfellow Drive beginning at 4:50pm.

by Al Showers