Capital Video’s “Victoria’s Secret Standard”: Not Compatible with Northampton’s Signage Regulations

In December, Capital Video initially proposed a bondage display for the outside of their porn shop at 135 King Street. When some Northampton Planning Board members objected at the Capital Video Site Plan Review on December 14, Capital Video attorney Michael Pill withdrew the display and verbally asserted the company would instead adhere to a “Victoria’s Secret” standard.

The problem is, this standard is vague, loose, changing, and itself might well violate Northampton’s site plan approval criteria (PDF), which state that:

No signs, text, graphics, pictures, publications, videotapes, CDs, DVDs,
movies, covers, merchandise or other objects, implements, items or advertising, depicting, describing sexual conduct or sexual excitement as defined in MGL Chpt. 272, §31 shall be displayed in the windows or on any building or be visible to the public from the street, pedestrian sidewalks, walkways, or bikepaths or from other areas outside such establishments.

For an example of a Victoria’s Secret store display, here is a 2005 report from Newsweek:

At the Tyson’s Corner mall in northern Virginia last week, just a quick escalator ride from Oliver Owl’s toddler playground and three doors down from Gap Kids, four beautiful plastic women shared an intimate moment in the brand new Victoria’s Secret store. One of the mannequins, impossibly thin and blonde and dressed in microscopic panties and garters, crawled across a countertop on all fours toward her disheveled and reclining brunette partner, she of the bra with convenient nipple cutouts. Below them, in plain view of anyone walking past the store, two thong-sporting dream women spooned on a black leather bed, their perfect synthetic derrieres aligned side-by-side. A window display revealed a scantily-clad beauty draped in heavy ropes and teetering on five-inch stiletto heels, her arms straight up in the air, wrists entwined.

And all this before you’d even gotten to the “For Adults Only” section near the back of the store, where a topless mannequin was lounging on a sofa. Let’s just say, if this were a movie, it would definitely be R-rated and pushing for NC-17…

[T]he Virginia version sent the local media and DC talk radio into a frenzy. The Washington ABC affiliate warned that “the subject matter and the pictures in this upcoming story may be too mature for some viewers,” and some of the photos were “too graphic to show on TV…”

Rhoda Barrett, who lives nearby, said when she complained about the display a manager at the store told her to walk her 7 and 10-year-old daughters “on the other side” of the mall if she found the display objectionable…

Victoria’s Secret launched another controversial promotion earlier this year when it hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky of Miami to create an interactive Internet strip poker “adver-game” to promote the July startup of its Pink fashion line, which caters to women in their late teens and early 20s.

Here are more pictures of the store display mentioned in the Newsweek article. This display, almost certainly not in compliance with current Northampton signage regulations, is an example of how Northampton’s Planning Board was hasty in approving Capital Video’s Site Plan. Capital Video has not demonstrated that it knows what it means to comply with Northampton’s laws.

At the Site Plan Review, Michael Pill said “call me anytime” to the Planning Board members. We invite him to give substance to his posture of openness by responding to our open letter of December 20, where we detailed several concerns of the community. In some cases, such as the lack of a fence or suitable planting at the back of the parking lot, Capital Video’s plans clearly fall short of what Northampton’s zoning ordinance requires.

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