Pembroke zoning board rules against proposed adult store
Evelyn Carey pauses in front of the Trevor's Toybox storefront on Main Street in Pembroke; Monday, March 18, 2013. (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
After hours of testimony and debate over semantics and definitions, the Pembroke Zoning Board of Adjustments voted unanimously last night to deny an appeal by the owners of a controversial shop in downtown Suncook, effectively ordering the store not to open.
Larry Preston, a former Pembroke selectman, appealed a notice of violation issued in March against Trevor’s Toybox, the Main Street store where he said he planned to sell leather and rubber clothing and other items allowed under the town ordinance.
“It’s never been our intent nor are we seeking to change the code or violate the code,” Preston said. “We’re not looking to sell anything that is prohibited in that area. We may be coming up to the line, but we don’t want to cross it.”
The shop first came to the town’s attention in March with a window display of two scantily dressed mannequins holding handcuffs and whips.
The town ordinance defines sexual paraphernalia as graphic displays and express depictions of sexual activities, said Preston’s attorney, Jim Raymond.
While some of the items to be sold in the store might have sexual connotations, “a connotation is not sufficient under the ordinance,” Raymond said.
He and Preston testified last night that the clothing and other items to be sold in the store did not fit the town ordinance’s definition of sexual paraphernalia. A website operating with the same name and address would sell more explicit merchandise, but the inventory would never be kept in the Pembroke store, they said.
Pembroke’s zoning ordinances allow passive adult entertainment – including stores that sell sexual paraphernalia – in one district near the Loudon and Concord borders, and in another district by Route 106 with a special zoning exemption.
Seven residents spoke against allowing the store to open. Some said they didn’t believe Preston’s claims the store would not stock sexual paraphernalia. Others said they thought some items Preston said would be sold there should be considered sexual, and therefore not allowed in the zone.
“This is graphic, it is objectionable, it is exactly what the zoning ordinance is about,” said resident Ray Foss. “He puts it all on us and on you and on (Code Enforcement Officer Everett Hodge) and on this entire community to make sure that line is never going to be crossed. You have a sacred duty as a zoning board of adjustment to try to maintain who we are as a town, who we are as a people.
“They can claim there is a distinction between the website and the store but . . . this is not about a nice little leather jacket. That ain’t what they’re selling.”
In the end, the board members pointed to Preston’s own testimony in supporting their ruling.
In addition to the clothing, the store may sell bondage gear such as ropes, handcuffs or leather equipment also sold on a website.
Board member Thomas Hebert had brought a computer print-out of a dictionary definition of “bondage,” which indicated the restraint and simulated slave-master relationships of the bondage lifestyle are often sexual or erotic in nature.
“I would have a hard time dissecting what he said was the original intent, to not sell things that don’t comply to our ordinance, with that definition, the definition of bondage,” Hebert said “How can you have a bondage item that would comply with our ordinance? And who is going to make the determination of what complies and what doesn’t? I don’t think you can separate it out. It is what it is.”
Raymond, Preston’s attorney, said after the meeting they would decide within the 30-day allowed window whether or not to appeal for a second hearing with the board. If the board does not grant a second hearing, Preston would have to pursue the issue in court.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)