Board defeats nudity ruling

Posted

Wednesday, August 22
BRATTLEBORO -- After an emergency ordinance banning nudity expires next month, public nudity in town will again be legal.

The Selectboard voted down a permanent ordinance that would have prohibited public nudity downtown and along the Routes 5 and 9 corridors Tuesday night.

After much public comment, Rich Garant proposed an amendment to strike out the words "breasts" and "buttocks," limiting the ordinance to prohibit exposure of genitals.

That amendment passed by a vote of 3-2, with Dora Bouboulis, Chairwoman Audrey Garfield and Garant voting in favor and Stephen Steidle and Dick DeGray voting against it.

The amended ordinance eventually came up, but fell by a vote of 2-3. Garfield and Garant voted for the measure, while Bouboulis, Steidle and DeGray voted against it.

But DeGray made it very clear he would not vote for anything but the original ordinance.

DeGray, during the board's discussion on the ordinance, said the nudity issue is the most common topic that people ask him about around town.

"I understand where Rich is coming from, but we represent 12,000 people and the majority of people in this town support this ordinance," he said.

For Bouboulis, a strong opponent of the ordinance, said it was about rights, and that it wouldn't matter if even 99.9 percent of residents supported it, it is not up to the board to restrict those rights.

"We in this country are going down a slippery slope these days," she said. She also stated that a headline from a national newspaper that ran an article about the emergency ordinance read "Tolerant town gets intolerant." She doesn't want to see a town that has to put more and more legislation on the books to try and become a good place to live.

DeGray, in response, stated he was concerned about Bouboulis' actions and comments on the board.

"I'm glad you're up for election in March," he said to applause from the crowd. Garfield had to warn the public that she would begin telling people to leave the room if another outburst occurred.

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DeGray later pointed to a recent paid advertisement in the Reformer by the Chamber of Commerce supporting the ordinance as well as a letter from Building a Better Brattleboro for the same reason.

He said passing the ordinance would be an opportunity to support the area business community.

Brattleboro residents from both sides of the issue had a chance to stand up and tell the board how they felt before the vote at the Selectboard's regular meeting at the Municipal Center, Tuesday.

Resident Michael Gauthier handed the board a petition with 967 signatures (551 of those from Brattleboro, 256 from Windham County) of people showing their support of a nudity ordinance.

"What is the point, other than shock and awe, that the nudists are trying to make?" Gauthier read from a statement.

"I think you got it right," said Robert Woodworth, stating that sometimes, "the rights of the individuals are subordinate to the rights of the many."

Others from the community had a different take.

"When do we actually stop, when we let a certain group dictate reality for the rest of us?" said Jeron Bartshe.

Another resident, who works downtown, said the attempt at an ordinance has "gone past the point of ridiculous."

Responding to another man's assertion that public nudity was a "sin," he said, "I don't believe that passing laws is going to stop people from sinning."

After the board voted down the ordinance, the vast majority of the public left the meeting as the board, minus the departing DeGray, carried on.

Patrick J. Crowley can be reached at pcrowley@reform-er.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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