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Opening of VIP Prompting Talk of Temporary Moratorium in this Connecticut Town

SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — – from www.courant.com – A month after they were confronted with an outcry over an adult-oriented store that plans to open in town, officials are considering a temporary moratorium on new sexually oriented businesses.

The planning and zoning commission will hold a hearing on the moratorium on Oct. 6 and could enact it that night. But even if that happens, it would not prevent Very Intimate Pleasures from opening a store on Queen Street, within sight of two apartment complexes and a school bus stop. That is because the business already has the permit it needs.

A moratorium would run for eight months and during that time, the commission would probably revise its regulations on sexually oriented businesses. Once the moratorium is adopted, no new permits could be issued for sexually oriented business or for expansions of existing ones, town officials said.

“The commission is dissatisfied with the scope of those regulations,” said Town Planner Mary Savage. “Since those regulations were written, those kinds of businesses have changed.”

In the case of VIP, in addition to sex-related magazines and DVDs the store also sells clothing, shoes, novelties and other material. The town’s regulations specify that if 10 percent or more of a store’s inventory is sex-related, then it falls under the zoning regulations for sexually oriented businesses, which limit where such businesses may be. VIP got around that limit by promising that only 5 percent of the Southington’s store’s inventory would be sex-related.

VIP, which runs a chain of adult-oriented stores in Connecticut, received a permit from the town in early August to open a store.

The news that VIP would open in town angered many residents, and a commission meeting where the issue was discussed was packed with people who said they do not want VIP. Commission Chairman Zaya Oshana Jr. said afterward that he wanted to see the permit revoked, but it is not clear how the town could do that at this point.

“There is an ongoing dialogue about VIP but nothing has been decided,” Savage said. “The commission still has the matter under consideration.”

Town Attorney Mark Sciota said that the town has hired an attorney specifically to advise the commission on its options regarding the VIP permit.

VIP also wants to open a store in Berlin and has been fighting a lengthy legal battle with officials there. Unlike in Southington, Berlin officials never granted VIP a permit. VIP sued and the case is now pending in federal court.

Sciota said officials in town will be monitoring the outcome of VIP’s case against Berlin. “It’s our hope that the court will give guidance to municipalities on this issue,” Sciota said.

He said that the town also will look at other communities’ regulations governing sexually oriented businesses.

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