Gazette: “Couple appeals porn shop’s building permit”

As reported in today’s Gazette, Adam Cohen and Jendi Reiter from NoPornNorthampton recently wrote to Northampton Building Commissioner Anthony Patillo, asking him to revoke the building permit issued to Capital Video for their proposed porn shop at 135 King Street. We wrote:

Section 1.3 of the [Northampton zoning] ordinance includes these criteria for site plan approval: “to conserve health”, “to conserve the value of land and buildings”, and “the prevention of blight and pollution of the environment”. Capital Video failed to provide basic information about the store’s proposed hours of operation, security measures, or traffic
safety, rendering their submission deficient. Moreover, they have not shown that they understand or intend to comply with the recently enacted signage restrictions on adult businesses.

With respect to traffic, Capital Video has not demonstrated that its site will have safe pedestrian flows along the narrow alley that leads to its parking lot, nor that its inbound or outbound traffic will interact safely with an already congested King Street…

In estimating trip volume for the Planning Board, the company inaccurately categorized the store as “specialty retail,” a category that describes high-margin, low-volume businesses. The category “video store,” which would be more appropriate, leads to a higher trip estimate…

Northampton’s zoning ordinance requires parking lots such as the one behind 135 King Street to be screened from residential areas that face it with a fence or planting:

Section 8.10 – Additional Standards for over five spaces. In addition to §8.9 above, all parking and loading areas containing over five (5) spaces, including automotive and drive-in establishments of all types shall either be contained within structures or shall also comply with the following:

1. The area shall be effectively screened with suitable planting or site impervious fencing on each side which adjoins or faces the side or rear lot line of a lot situated in any Residential “R” District…

The site plan submitted by Capital Video at the December 14, 2006 Planning Board meeting makes no provision for any such screening. The parking lot at 135 King Street directly faces a bike path, on the other side of which are homes with small children. Moreover, Capital Video disclosed at the same meeting that they intended to relocate the main entrance to the rear of the store, in the parking lot, rather than on King Street.

Given the heightened crime risk around adult establishments, such a fence is necessary for safety as well as aesthetic reasons. Many other towns have found that such establishments attract robberies (because of larger-than-average amounts of cash on the premises), prostitution, sex crimes, lewd behavior, and disposal of hazardous or sexually explicit trash on neighboring property. Capital Video has recently experienced some of these problems in Kittery, Maine and Meriden, Connecticut. They have not explained how they will keep their grounds clean in Northampton…

Finally, the proposed window display submitted by Capital Video at the site plan hearing was so inappropriate for a store bordering a residential neighborhood that Capital Video felt compelled to withdraw it after protests by Planning Board members, but no alternative picture was submitted…

Capital Video’s submission, which depicted a showroom window with nearly-nude mannequins wielding sex toys in bondage poses, would clearly be disallowed by this ordinance. When pressed, Capital Video attorney Michael Pill vaguely promised the store would adhere to a “Victoria’s Secret standard,” which is not only unenforceable, but itself fails to comply with Northampton law…

On February 26, Mr. Patillo responded, declining to revoke Capital Video’s building permit. He did acknowledge that a condition of Capital Video’s Site Plan approval is that they comply with Northampton’s signage ordinance (PDF).

The complete text of NoPornNorthampton’s letter, and Mr. Patillo’s response, can be read here (PDF). Our letter cites an example of a Victoria’s Secret store display in Virginia. This example may be viewed online here.

The Gazette article states that “It’s not entirely clear whether the matter now moves to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.” However, we are not planning to bring this matter before the ZBA at this time. Carolyn Misch, Northampton Senior Land Use Planner, told us that an appeal before the ZBA is not appropriate in this case because Capital Video’s plans have already been discussed at a public hearing (the Site Plan Review of December 14).

Our exchange with Mr. Patillo does not affect an appeal of the approval of Capital Video’s Site Plan being carried on by Northampton residents Mike Kirby and Lu Stone. That matter is currently before the Massachusetts Land Court, and involves many of the same issues raised in our letter to Mr. Patillo.

See also:

An Open Letter to Capital Video Attorney Michael Pill
We would like to take Capital Video up on its offer to have “a dialogue with the community to work on a plan that will improve the area, and provide a comfortable environment to all.” (Lesley Rich, Letter to Mayor Higgins and City Council Members)

While Northampton’s Planning Board approved Capital Video’s Site Plan (PDF) on December 14, a member of the board called it “one of the poorest I’ve seen in a long time”. We would appreciate reassurances and information on several areas of concern…

[This open letter was posted on 12/20/06. We are aware of no response from Dr. Pill as of 2/28/07.]

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

Breaking News: Neighbors Appeal Approval of Capital Video Site Plan to Massachusetts Land Court

What Kittery Found at the Porn Shop
Chief Strong said Fernald Road residents had complained about finding offensive trash on the road and the Department did their own surveillance, finding such items as empty pill bottles, lubricants, leather straps, movies, and used condoms within 100 yards of the rear of the establishment on Fernald Road. [We note this trash was found during a time when Capital Video’s porn shop in Kittery still had closed-door viewing booths.]

21 thoughts on “Gazette: “Couple appeals porn shop’s building permit”

  1. Can you please explain what you mean by kids on bicycles “mixing with” those who enjoy the merchandise? What, exactly, do you think is going to happen?

  2. once again you go misleading people with that fictional bike path that doesn’t even exist.as far as putting a fence up,do you not realize that there is a right of way access road from the parking lot to the railroad tracks that is used by the police as well as the electric company?so putting up a fence is out of the question.you of all people should know this seeing how you trespass on those tracks quite often.i have seen you.and as far as the parking is concerened.capitol video has MORE than the reqiured amount of spaces.nice try again.keep digging.

  3. Why sure. The bike path is to run directly behind the store, and Capital Video has said the store’s primary entrance will be in the rear. This presumably will bring children in close proximity to many of the store’s patrons. Based on Capital Video’s merchandise, we can infer that many of these patrons are more likely than the average person to enjoy bondage fare, incest porn, and ‘pseudo child porn’, that is, porn that involves actors over 18 but uses cues such as dress and hairstyles to suggest sex with young teens.

    We have shown that heavy porn usage is often associated with those who molest children. We are concerned that the putting a Capital Video porn shop next to a bike trail unreasonably increases the risk of sexual predation in the vicinity. Fencing off the Capital Video store from the bike trail seems to us a small thing to ask to reduce this risk. I hope you would agree.

    In some towns, adult-use zoning ordinances explicitly require distance between adult enterprises and bike trails. For example, the Village of Matteson, IL, says,

    No adult use shall be located within 800 feet of any property which is zoned or used for residences, churches, schools, parks, public or private hike/bike trails, or other adult use, whether or not these uses are
    located within the corporate limits of Matteson.

  4. Adam/Jendi – I happen to know that the suggestion about the fence (and other improvements) were made to Cap Video. But, given the opposition in town to their very presence at that location, its obvious to me that they choose “the less is more” approach — keep their site plan as minimal as possible in an attempt to avoid providing the opposition with extra items over which additional quibbling (and delay) could result – as the better approach. Their “less is more” approach is an unfortunate result, in my opinion, of the close minded position and adversarial manner that NPN and its followers chose to take. The name “Noporn…” pretty much sums it up, after all. Cap Video is the New England’s Blockbuster Video of Porn stores, so to speak, but even Blockbuster (and other chain stores, like fast food restaurants) can be induced to be flexible enough to include improvements, like a simple fence, in their plans if they know community opposition will then be resolved. It may be vain for me to hope that you all will become more open minded and flexible(?), but I think if NPN and its followers did, we all might find Cap Video more likely to risk the permit process involved in making a number of improvements which would not inhibit ready pedestrian access to the store at that site. Treat Cap Video as you would Blockbuster Video, and you may actually achieve some at least, but not all, of course, of the results you seek. Some improvements, at the end of the day, are better than none, in my opinion.

    Yours/AC

  5. If pornography is as widespread as you say it is, then children have been passing by people who use pornography on the bike path for years without incident. Did Hadley have a problem with patrons at the adult store next to the bike path abducting people?

    Your fear mongering truly knows no bounds.

  6. Your speculations about Capital Video’s mind state, strategy and willingness to respect residents short of legal compulsion is not supported by the facts. As you relayed on TalkBackNorthampton in November, Capital Video promised an “upscale” exterior that would respect the community. Then in December, they tried (and failed) to get our Planning Board to approve a controversial bondage display. This is not consistent with a plan to “keep their site plan as minimal as possible” to avoid debate and delay.

    Capital Video attorney Michael Pill has had over two months to respond to our open letter to him. To our knowledge, he has not yet done so. That does not suggest openness to me.

  7. Interesting question. Of course, it’s not a straight comparison. Looking at a Google satellite map of the Hadley location you’re referring to, the main entrance and the parking lot of the old porn shop there were in the front of the building (in plain view of a busy road). The bike path ran behind the back of the store.

    The patrons of the Hadley store would have been going out of their way to go to the back of the store and approach the bike path. By contrast, in the case of 135 King Street, the parking lot and primary entrance of the store will be in the back, directly abutting the bike path (PDF) that will be built there. The opportunity for store patrons and children to come into contact, out of view of city streets, will be much greater.

    In light of these facts, asking Capital Video to fence off the back of their parking lot from the bike trail seems like a small thing to ask. As I mentioned, other towns have simply zoned adult businesses away from bike trails completely.

  8. Not a straight comparison? An adult business in Hadley near a bike path is not a direct comparison, but Kittery, Maine, and Des Moines, Iowa, are?

    Are you suggesting that if the store in Hadley had had a back entrance that child molestors would have grabbed children from the bike path?

  9. We have offered substantial proof that the risks (secondary effects) are real. We are saying it’s wise to be proactive rather than express regrets after crimes occur. It’s not like we’re asking Capital Video to do something that’s substantially burdensome. Do you find this unreasonable?

  10. Thanks for the opportunity. The most important changes, from our point of view, are an exterior that conforms with Northampton’s laws and respects the neighborhood, and securing the grounds with respect to the bike trail. The latter could be achieved with an impervious fence surrounding the parking lot. Video monitoring of the exterior grounds from the clerk’s booth would also be helpful. Such tapes should be retained for at least 7 days and be viewable by the police upon request.

    Capital Video needs to agree on hours of operation that are acceptable to nearby residents.

    Capital Video needs to think about how its traffic will interact with King Street. At the least, exiting patrons should be required to turn right as they leave the parking alley.

    It would be nice if Capital Video promised to clean litter from its grounds and the immediate surrounding area on a regular basis–at least weekly.

    It would be nice if Capital Video disclosed how they plan to advertise this store. Many in Hartford have expressed dismay at the image sex-oriented billboards give their city.

    Capital Video should hold at least one open community meeting in the near future to discuss these and other concerns residents might have and how they might be addressed.

    We of course do not speak for Mike Kirby or Lu Stone, who may have other issues with Capital Video’s plans.

  11. What I find unreasonable are your repeated efforts at fanning the flames of fear. You say you’ve offered proof that the risks are real? Where is the proof that if the adult store in Hadley had had a back door that child molestors would have abducted children from the bike path?

    Your scorched-earth method of portraying pornography and Capital Video as bogeymen who will spirit away our children is inflammatory and irresponsible.

  12. What’s irresponsible is your near total lack of concern for the risks that adult enterprises impose on communities. Your debating technique appears to be try to restrict the issue to a tiny, arbitrary situation such as one porn shop in Hadley. When we open up to a wider perspective, we see that events prove your carefree attitude is inappropriate, as in Springfield or Raynham. And don’t say that ‘off-premises’ adult bookstores lack secondary effects. A recent appeals court ruling says they do.

  13. And your debating technique is to rely on ad hominem attacks and logical fallacies. In this case, either we all accept your shoddy research or we’re insensitive to communities that host adult businesses.

    As for the shop in Hadley: I don’t think this is as trivial as you make it seem. You’ve been suggesting lately that if the store opens here in Northampton, our children will be in danger. To me, as a parent, that’s the heart of the matter. However, I’m not willing to be afraid just because you say I have to. So, I asked for further evidence. I should have known, based on previous experience, that this would only lead to insults and evasion. I guess that was my mistake.

  14. I think there was a t.v. show all were watching Sunday nite, including myself & in it was where men met up and guess what was in the club? Yep, you got that right but many many people tuned in. Ok try today site reading about dog adoptions & on the side was a female singer who had half her breast hanging out, wnated survey to guess who it was & don’t forget the adwards. Who has the least amount of clothes on this evening. They may as well throw sparkles on & leave it at that. I have kids, I’m pisses it continues. Come on girls, you’ve left nothing to a man’s fantacies. It’s over because its out there. Rapist don’t rape women anymore, their to old they know what they have its right in their face, its old and used up. So now they go after what’s hidden, what’s not revealed in public.And whats that? They now go after little children & you know what? I blame the higher ups for not stopping this porn to begin with, it’s your fault it is happening, getting out of control. All you want is the fat pay check and make a promise you’ll do something, well do it!!!Get this crap in back alley’s and not in my face…my kids face..& stop ruining marriages!!!Like mine..!!!!!!!

  15. Maybe you have yet to notice, but you are actually giving Amazing.net more than enough publicity to ensure customers keep coming into the store. Between NPN, the Gazette, and your ads in the Gazette, it made me interested enough to check out the store. I was honestly surprised. Everyone had hyped it up to being this place where it was going to be demeaning and grotesque. I went in, and found it was kinda nice. If you don’t go into the cage, it’s more like a combonation of Spencer’s Gifts and Victoria’s Secret. I bought some massage oils, a massager (yes a real one), a game, and a piece of lingerie. All of which, I could have picked up at the Holyoke Mall.

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