TRIANA, Ala.(WHNT)- Tempers flared in a packed council chamber Thursday, as Triana residents came out in droves to show their opposition to a proposed "upscale gentleman's club."
The council is considering whether to approve the club owner's liquor license application.
The meeting drew more than a 150 people, and as the meeting wore on it was clear the town is divided. Not over the strip club - most oppose the business in their town - but over whose voice counts, between so-called "Old Triana" and "New Triana."
"It appalls me that I see so many of you here today, and I don't see you here for community clean up day or Arbor day. There is more stuff going on in Triana than just this," said one resident.
Another countered, "I don't think it's fair to call out accusations against us because we don't want a strip club, but we can't say that because we didn't come to trash pick up day!"
At one point a resident got in a heated exchange with a council member. The woman addressed the mostly female council, "Why would you want a strip club when it hurts women?"
The councilwoman countered, "Men go to strip clubs, women don't go!"
The councilwoman eventually walked out of the public hearing, after only half the residents had the opportunity to speak.
The project manager for the strip club project also attended the meeting. He defended the business saying they would bring in two other businesses to town them, a convenience store and a restaurant. He was met with jeers from the community, some of whom called him a "liar."
The town's lawyer also confirmed his firm has also represents the strip club. If the town and the club's owner enter into a legal dispute, the lawyers say they will step down and defer the case.
As of Thursday afternoon, homeowners from three different subdivisions in Triana had racked up more than 600 signatures on an online petition that asks council members to deny a liquor license for the yet-to-be named strip club.
The proposed strip club would sit directly across the street from the Savannah neighborhood on Wall Triana Highway. Records obtained by WHNT News 19 show that strip club owner Gregory Jackson applied for the license earlier this month. Jackson operates "The Furnace" in Birmingham, and is reportedly in negotiations to buy the empty plot of land across from the neighborhood.
"We want everybody to know that we don't want this here," said Michele Rymer, a resident of the Savannah neighborhood. "I don't know if we can do a mass exodus or not, but I've heard people say that they will leave if this happens."
At the meeting several residents assured they would leave without hesitation if the club came to town. One woman says she's already faced problems selling her home because of the proposal.
"I had a Realtor call me and say they were going to come by this Saturday and look at the home with a potential buyer. And yesterday I got a call from the Realtor saying the potential buyer saw on the news that we were going to be getting a strip club possibly ,and that they did not have any more interest," said resident Stacey Tanner.
Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway represents Triana, and said a state law that forbids strip clubs from operating within 1,000 feet of a private residence could possibly be in play if Triana City Council members allow the strip club to proceed.
"We're just trying to look at any legal statutes that are out there," said Haraway. "I think they've got some legal ground to stand on there that would prevent this from happening."