Morrisville, PA Looks to Get Into Burlesque (Sort of)

Burlesque proposal at heart of ordinance defining free speech

By PETRA CHESNER SCHLATTER
Journal Register News Service

MORRISVILLE, Pa. — The topic of sex and freedom of speech in Morrisville Borough has come up again.

Nancy Sherlock, president of the Morrisville Borough Council, said that some corrections need to be made to Chapter 27 of the Morrisville Borough Zoning Code of Ordinances.

The code “needs certain corrections to comply” with state laws, she said.

The ordinance is not new, and only a few minor changes were made, according to Sherlock, who said, “‘Adult Oriented Establishments’ will now be known as ‘Adult Entertainment Establishments.’”

The borough council’s executive session on Jan. 20 dealt with the litigation regarding the constitutional right to operate a gentleman’s club in Morrisville.

Todd Colarusso, a principal in the New Jersey-based Stockham Interests LLC, is suing the borough and contends Morrisville zoning ordinances “impose restrictions and prohibitions on First Amendment protected expression.”

The developer wants to put in a burlesque-style theater with topless women in the building. Other proposed uses in the building would be a health club and a restaurant.

Colarusso’s application for a strip club was unanimously rejected in May 2008 by the Morrisville Zoning Hearing Board.

Sherlock said the ordinance “is only being altered to be more flexible” as a way to not turn a blind eye to traffic congestion, parking issues, neighborhood blight and crime that might arise near proposed sex locations.

James Downey, borough council solicitor, said he is working on changes to the ordinance and that the decision to revise the ordinance came because the borough needs to “have better defense for the federal court case.”

He cited the pending court case with Stockham Interests, which wants to use the historic Stockham building for its burlesque club.

The matter was sent to the Bucks County Planning Commission. Next, the Morrisville Borough Planning Committee must review the changes. A public hearing must be held before anything is considered for adoption.

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