Dr. Michael Pill is a Shutesbury attorney retained by Capital Video to help them establish a porn shop at 135 King Street. Northampton’s Planning Board approved Capital Video’s Site Plan on December 14, but many citizens still have concerns about how Capital Video will respect their interests. Here we ask Capital Video and Michael Pill to dialogue with the community.
Dear Dr. 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. These include:
- The store’s parking lot will soon abut a bike trail. Many children are likely to come in close proximity to the store and its patrons. Adult enterprises are well known to increase the risk of crime and harassment of passersby. Would you consider monitoring the store grounds with video cameras? How will these grounds be illuminated at night? Perhaps the back of the property can be fenced off from the bike trail? What other security measures can you offer?
- Capital Video’s initial proposal of a bondage display for the store, after promising an upscale, mature and non-offensive presentation, raised concerns that the company cares little for its visual impact on the neighborhood. Maintaining a comfortable environment for pedestrians is an important goal for Northampton. In the Planning Board hearing, the company most recently promised to adhere to a “Victoria’s Secret” standard. We would appreciate seeing specific examples of what this means for 135 King Street, to verify that Capital Video understands what it means to comply with Northampton’s new signage ordinance (PDF).
- Bookends, a 6,000-square-foot porn shop in Enfield, is reported to serve up to 900 customers on a busy Saturday. Unlike the parking lot at 135 King Street, the Bookends parking lot can be accessed from two points, one of which is dedicated solely to cars entering. What kinds of volumes do you expect at 135 King Street, and will those volumes overflow your 25-spot parking lot or create unsafe traffic conditions?
- If the sole regular entrance to the store is in the back of the store, pedestrians will be compelled to access it through the alley between 135 and 137 King Street. It seems unlikely that this alley, which is not particularly wide, can safely support a significant volume of both pedestrians and two-way traffic. How might this be remediated?
- Many homes are close to this store on the South, East and West sides. Noise and pedestrian safety are concerns. What will the hours of the store be?
- Pornographic litter has been a problem around other adult enterprises, and the police have found used condoms in the vicinity of your Kittery store. We also saw what appeared to be soiled blue gloves behind your Meriden store. How will you maintain a clean environment in and around your store?
- Currently no use has been specified for about one-third of the property at 135 King Street. We are concerned that a later use will surprise residents and negatively impact them. For example, if the now-empty space is used as a warehouse, issues about the flow of commercial traffic and truck noise will arise. Will you pledge to notify the public before materially changing the configuration and uses of the store?
- We are concerned that Capital Video will interfere with Northampton’s attempts to present itself as a safe, family-friendly environment for visitors (“Walk Into Something Wonderful”) if it advertises its store with billboards on major roads. Problems with this have been seen in Hartford. Will Capital Video pledge not to advertise its Northampton store with billboards?
We invite you to respond in writing either to NoPornNorthampton or to City Councilor Marilyn Richards, whichever you prefer. If you would like to arrange a community meeting to discuss these issues, please contact Councilor Richards. Here is the contact information:
351 Pleasant Street, PMB 101
Northampton, MA 01060-3961
Councilor Marilyn Richards
City Hall Room 18
210 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Jendi Reiter, Esq.
The December 21 Gazette mentions this letter in “Porn video opponents’ last chance is in court”. Capital Video general counsel Lesley Rich is quoted as saying their initial bondage storefront proposal was “a mistake”.
The Northampton city clerk registered the Planning Board’s decision today (December 21), so the 20-day appeal window runs from now through January 10. Citizens may appeal the decision to the Hampshire Superior Court or the state Land Court.
Regardless of whether citizens decide to appeal the decision, this is not their “last chance” to monitor and dialogue with Capital Video, educate the public about porn, or experiment with ways to protect the interests of women and the community.