City council only delays the inevitable

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Deferring vote on adult novelty store just frustrates owner who followed rules

Charlottetown city council is only delaying the inevitable by postponing a decision on a new adult novelty store on Euston Street. A desperate plea from area Coun. Mitchell Tweel last week resulted in council unanimously deferring the matter until it has a chance to meet and discuss it.

There is no question the store has turned into a hot button issue for council which agreed to defer the matter without any debate.

Mr. Tweel argues there is adamant opposition to this development but council was quite prepared last Monday to vote its approval for an application from the owners of the adult store for a “change of use’’ for the property. So it was surprising a 9-0 vote was then recorded to defer the matter.

The biggest problem for many people is that two schools are in the area — Birchwood junior high and Prince Street Elementary. Crossing guards operate at that very corner on Euston Street and Upper Hillsborough. And the fearmongering is that children will see something inappropriate on display in the windows as they walk to and from school.

While Mr. Tweel says he has been inundated with complaints from area residents, a media survey of people on the street was largely in favour, similar stores operated without incident in other areas of the city and the store was being unfairly targeted.

There are laws and bylaws that govern businesses operating in the city. They cannot be simply trampled on because some people think a store offers inappropriate items for sale.

The building was one of many corner stores throughout the city grandfathered into the city’s zoning bylaws to allow them to continue to operate as commercial establishments in residential neighborhoods.

Each time one of these locations gets a new tenant, a new development agreement is required. The business  had applied for a variance to allow it to continue to operate in its current location.

Business owner Chaylon Brewster was surprised to hear there was so much opposition to his store. He says he has been working with the city and the province since February to ensure he meets all the proper requirements to operate.

Earlier last week, a provincial health inspector also visited and inspected the property and gave it approval to sell tobacco.

There was nothing offensive in the windows and adults-only can access  the store, so it was a sure thing the variance application would be approved when it went to the city’s planning board. And it was. The board said it could find no legal reason to ban an adult sex shop from that area.

Is this store appropriate for the neighbourhood? Probably not. Can council stop it. Probably not.

And if it does, it's a certainty the issue will be appealed to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission where the store owner will win and the city will pay thousands of dollars in a futile and wasted effort.  

The planning board did recommend that council allow the business to operate under the condition it control window displays.

Mr. Tweel can claim credit with the voters of ward 4 for fighting the good fight in a battle stacked against him.

So now council will go through the motions of giving the store issue a through examination

Meanwhile the Taboo store is open and selling and will continue to do so. There are no grounds to deny the application in the city's bylaw.

What is really being accomplished here? Not much, really.

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