VideoXPress lawsuit: Size matters

HAMILTON, New Jersey — from – The company that operates the Route 33 porn shop is suing the township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for rejecting the outlet’s plans for enlargement.

Williams Trading Co. filed a civil lawsuit this week against the board for making an “unreasonable” decision seven weeks ago that denied Video XPress permission to triple its size.

Board member Anthony DiStephano on Dec. 8, 2009, warned his colleagues and the public that the porn shop might sue the Zoning Board if the board voted to kill the expansion application.

“The man has a right to be there, the right to do business,” DiStephano said during the decisive board meeting, explaining why he voted in favor of Video XPress. DiStephano and Vincent Savelli voted for the expansion, but they were trumped by the five board members who voted it down.

The township yesterday received notice of the lawsuit, which Williams Trading Co. filed Tuesday in New Jersey Superior Court’s Mercer County circuit. The township said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The lawyer representing the porn shop, Walter Toto, didn’t return a message left on his work voicemail seeking comment.

The expansion plan had overwhelming public opposition, and township cops last September raided Video XPress following a one-month undercover investigation of people allegedly using the porn shop as a rendezvous point for sexual encounters arranged over the Internet.

Cops arrested six people during the raid, including shop owner Bill Pyne and his store manager, Sandra L. Helsel, 48, of Burlington Township.

Established in 1974, the porn shop said it wanted to morph into an “upscale” business that attracted a diversified clientele of men, women and couples. The shop said it would accomplish that by getting rid of its infamous viewing booths and concentrating on selling lingerie, sex toys and DVDs.

The expansion plan called for Video XPress to demolish its existing 1,400-square-foot building and construct a new 7,600-square foot building in its place. Video XPress said it would have operated in a 4,600-square-foot sector.

The porn shop said it would try to get other, non-adult businesses to occupy two additional sectors of 1,500 square feet each.

Zoning Board members said they rejected the proposal because Video XPress failed to justify a need for expansion.

Board members said the porn should could renovate the existing building without enlarging it.

In the lawsuit, Williams Trading Co. accuses the Zoning Board of acting in a manner that was “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and contrary to law.”

The porn company wants a judge to reverse the Zoning Board’s ruling and is seeking to get the board to pay for the costs of the litigation on top of trying to get the board — and thus township taxpayers — to pay the porn company “such other relief as may be appropriate and just.”

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