Amid claps and cheers from a standing-room-only audience Thursday, the Vigo County Area Plan Commission made an unfavorable recommendation to rezone a West Terre Haute strip club.

Michael Bickers, owner of Club Koyote at 121 E. Paris Ave., is requesting to rezone from a C-2 community commerce district to a C-5 commercial entertainment district.

The commission voted unanimously, with West Terre Haute board member Bill Thomas abstaining.

The Area Plan Commission will give its recommendation to the West Terre Haute Town Council, who will vote on the zoning issue. The Town Council does not have to adopt the commission’s recommendation.

More than 70 people attended the plan commission meeting, many holding signs that read, “West Terre Haute Says No!”

“We’re trying to clean up West Terre Haute,” said Daniel Bays. “We don’t want a whorehouse over here. It will open the door for all the other people to come in and we don’t want them.” Club Koyote has never had any allegation of prostitution leveled against it by authorities.

The Area Planning Department staff suggested the commission give a favorable recommendation, citing First Amendment rights.

Although Club Koyote needs to be zoned C-5, no businesses in Vigo County currently operate under that classification, said Jeremy Weir, executive director of the Area Planning Department. Many residents of West Terre Haute said they want to have a say in what goes on in their community.

“Doesn’t it bother you this many people showed up?” Ken Kaufman asked Bickers. “It’s a personal battle to us. West Terre Haute always has had this negative connotation. I chose to live in that community because I wanted to help make a difference in my city. This does not help us clean it up, it does not make us look better, it makes us look worse.”

Commission members said the board has an advisory role and does not rezone or enforce zoning.

“The question is of land usage,” said Rich Dunkin, commission member, adding he understands the good intentions of those living in the town. “We have to address the adult entertainment district or else violate fee speech.”

The commission voted after its member Pat Goodwin said one “adult establishment” in the community is enough. He had earlier mentioned a strip club on Terre Haute’s north side.

In 2004, the Area Plan Commission filed a lawsuit against the club, alleging that it was not properly zoned for “exotic dancing” and live entertainment.

During court proceedings last year, Bickers agreed to comply with the county’s zoning ordinance by Nov. 1. In December, Bickers filed a rezoning petition.

A special judge in Sullivan Superior Court ruled Dec. 21 that while the business is zoned C-2, it needs to be in zoning compliance and cannot not offer modeling of lingerie.

Further court action has been delayed pending the results of the rezoning petition.

Joanne Hammer can be reached at (812) 231-4214 or joanne.hammer@tribstar.com.

Summing it up

What happened: Vigo County Area Plan Commission gave an unfavorable recommendation to rezone Club Koyote at its current location.

What next: West Terre Haute Town Board will consider the commission’s recommendation and will vote whether to rezone the land.