Dagsboro council stresses over massage spa ordinance

When it comes to the issue of allowing massage parlors in town, the Dagsboro Town Council is far from relaxed.

During the regularly scheduled council meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, members of the council listened to the proposal from a potential business owner who is hoping that they vote to amend Chapter 275-17(A) to add subsection (23), the permitted use of “massage spas exclusively providing massage services performed by a professionally licensed massage therapist in the Highway Commercial District.” They ultimately voted to table the subject until the next council meeting, scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26.

While the representative making the push to open a possible location in Savannah Square assured the council that, throughout their four current locations, they’re “always very quiet, very professional,” and that they were hoping to get approval so that they could open for the holiday season, the council was still skeptical.

“I would just request that the council, at minimum, table it so I can get up to speed and be better versed,” said Dagsboro Chief of Police Floyd Toomey, citing a seminar regarding massage treatment centers and related criminal activity that he planned to attend on Oct. 10.

Assistant Council Secretary Bill Chandler acknowledged the difficulty of the decision, noting that, while massage therapy is a legal business, the negative connotations sometimes associated with it are cause for concern.

“The issue is that it’s not an illegal business,” Chandler explained after noting a massage therapist in Dagsboro that formerly operated on Swamp Road. “I’m ambivalent on the subject. It’ll be interesting to see what the Chief finds out in a month.”

Vice-Mayor Brian Baull had similar thoughts on the subject.

“It’s almost perception vs. reality,” Baull said. “Perception is what everybody’s seen in the paper recently,” he noted of some recent arrests of massage parlor employees in connection with suspected prostitution. “The reality is that it’s a perfectly legitimate business.”

But while Chandler and Baull seemed to have confidence in the business making the proposal, the issue of precedent was also discussed, as council members noted that amending the ordinance for one business would mean that others could follow. Dagsboro Planning & Zoning commissioners were also concerned, voting against the amendment unanimously during their Sept. 15 meeting.

“It had nothing to do with the applicant,” said Town Manger Stacey Long regarding a letter written by the committee explaining their decision. “Once it’s in there, it’s in there.”

“They were concerned about setting a precedent,” added Mayor Norwood Truitt. “I would recommend following Chief’s advice, to give him more time to find out the impact on the town.”

A vote is expected to take place at the next regularly scheduled town council meeting, on Monday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m.

Council flushes toilet issue at Katie Helm Park

With no public restroom facility at Katie Helm Park in Dagsboro, park users have been directed to a portable toilet when nature called.

However, located just off the highway, the facility has seemed to become somewhat of a landmark for beach travelers and truck drivers, and some local residents, including Jim Thompson, said at Monday night’s town council meeting that they were tired of seeing it being abused.

Addressing the council on the issue, Thompson claimed he had on the previous Friday seen five truck drivers stop and park, use the portable toilet and then drive away.

“It’s turned into a Truck America public toilet, and we object with that,” Thompson said. “We’re talking about a children’s park.”

While the council didn’t reject Thompson’s concerns, they explained that the issue had been discussed and that the toilet was to be removed next month. Truitt encouraged Thompson and park users to contact Furmore, the developers of the neighborhood, to raise funds to install a more permanent and less offensive facility.