Friday, September 5, 2008
Two years ago, Ms. Babines, who does computer programming and business analysis in her day job, began offering instruction in pole dancing, power lap dancing, salsa and other forms of dance and fitness, in peoples’ homes and in rented space in a dance studio at night and on weekends.
“I love making people feel better about themselves,” she said. “Through the classes, their bodies change. They start losing inches off their waist. They start fitting into their skinny jeans.”
Business, particularly the pole dancing classes, which have been gaining in popularity across the country, has been so good that she put off finishing her master’s degree in elementary education and decided to open her own studio.
She found a storefront in a shopping area in Adams Township — a small suburb 25 miles north of Pittsburgh — next to Movie Stop, a video rental store, and Jimmy’s Strip District Grill and Deli.
But in March, the Adams Township code enforcement officer, Gary Peaco, denied her occupancy permit, ruling that her studio was an adult business and was illegally within 1,000 feet of a bar and a residential area.
According to the lawsuit, in appeal hearings before the township’s Zoning Hearing Board in May and June, Mr. Peaco said he had reached his decision after noticing the black and pink color scheme of Ms. Babine’s Web site — www.ohmyyouregorgeous.com — and the high-heeled shoe in her logo.
In addition, Mr. Peaco testified that even though the dance instruction did not involve nudity and there would be no audience, the dance styles were “provocative” and involved sexual “innuendo.”
Mr. Peaco did not return a phone message left at his home.
Without explanation, the three-member zoning board unanimously denied her appeal on July 29.
“This is in every way a dance studio,” Mr. Walczak said. “The only reason they don’t want her here is the township commissioners just don’t like some of the dances she teaches.”
The chairman of the zoning board, Jeff Brown, rejected that view. “The Zoning Hearing Board enforces the zoning laws of Adams Township,” he said, “and that’s what we did.”
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