Judge affirms zoning board decision against Trevor’s Toybox
A superior court judge has decided the Pembroke zoning board acted reasonably when it blocked Trevor’s Toybox from selling leather clothes, whips and other bondage items in the town’s central business district.
In May, the zoning board ruled the store couldn’t operate in downtown Pembroke because its bondage merchandise would “cater to sexual preferences, tastes and activities,” according to court documents. The store’s business card defines the store as “meeting the demand for BDSM equipment.”
The board had also determined the shop’s window display violated the zoning ordinances for adult entertainment, which do not allow any sexual paraphernalia to be visible from the outside of the building.
Store owner Larry Preston appealed those decisions in June, claiming the items he would sell in the store can be easily purchased at other businesses and are not explicitly sexual.
In his order this week, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara wrote the board was not unreasonable when it considered Trevor’s Toybox to be a sexual paraphernalia store and therefore not allowed downtown.
“Mr. Preston stated that items to be sold included the following: leather clothing, including jackets and chaps; rubber pants, shirts and gloves; and accessories, including whips, flogs and other bondage devices. Furthermore, Mr. Preston asserted that ‘bondage has no connection (to) sex,’ ” the order states. “The court finds that the ZBA reasonably disagreed with his interpretation in concluding that the equipment being sold at Trevor’s Toybox was intended to appeal to individuals’ sexual preferences and activities.”
McNamara also affirmed the board’s ruling against the Trevor’s Toybox window display.
“Having previously found that the proposed BDSM equipment constitutes paraphernalia in connection with sexual conduct, the ZBA could reasonably find that the window display, which contained whips, leather, handcuffs, bondage harnesses and a book on how to properly engage in the art of bondage, also violated (town ordinances),” the judge wrote in his order.
Preston said yesterday he had not yet decided whether he would appeal the judge’s decision to the state Supreme Court.
“I’m not sure at this point what our next move would be,” Preston said. “We certainly thought that we had a strong case and really hadn’t considered that I’d be in this position.”
In March, Preston filed a form to change his appliance store on Pembroke’s Main Street to a retail shop called Trevor’s Toybox. But the new business came to the town’s attention when Preston created a window display with two mannequins scantily dressed in leather outfits, holding handcuffs and whips.
The town argued the store could not open in April as planned because Trevor’s Toybox violated a zoning ordinance that prohibits “passive adult entertainment use” in Pembroke’s central business district. That ordinance cites examples of passive adult entertainment uses, including sexual paraphernalia stores, adult video stores and adult bookstores.
Sexually oriented items are sold on the Trevor’s Toybox website, Preston has said, but the products in the store could be used for nonsexual purposes, such as for Halloween costumes.
But the judge ruled in the town’s favor and, in an emailed statement, Chairman Bill Bonney said the zoning board was “gratified but not surprised” by McNamara’s order.
“Our ordinance reflects the determination that sexual paraphernalia shops, such as the one former selectman Larry Preston sought to open and operate right in the middle of our downtown, can have very significant and detrimental secondary effects on consumers, rents, property values and the economic and social health of a community,” Bonney said. “The ZBA and the court made the right decision.”
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)