Thursday, April 17, 2014
WATERVILLE — A store that sells adult movies, novelties and other items will open next month at 68 College Ave.
Renovation work is being done to convert a former restaurant into the 1st Amendment Adult Book Video store on College Avenue in Waterville.
Staff photo by David Leaming
1st Amendment Adult Book Video will be the third such adult novelty store in Waterville, joining Treasure Chest II, on Sanger Avenue, and Studio 57, on Water Street.
Will Stuart of Farmingdale, owner of 1st Amendment, has a store by the same name in the western Maine town of Oxford. He formerly had a store in Farmingdale.
“We’ve been in business 18 years,” Stuart said Tuesday. “Fifteen years in Farmingdale and over that in Oxford. We’ve never had a problem with anything for anybody. We take a property and make it better. We do not have any neon signs. It simply says ‘1st Amendment.’”
He is opening the shop in a former Chinese restaurant next to the former John Martin’s Manor.
“I’d rather see a restaurant there because it would be convenient for me to eat there,” said Dave Lefebvre, owner of the nearby Starting Line. “But I’ll welcome neighbors. It is what it is. People can choose to go there if they want.”
The city has no rules prohibiting such a business in that area, which is in the Commercial C zone, according to City Planner Ann Beverage.
“We don’t specify porn shops as permitted uses, but they’re a type of retail business, so retail is allowed in any commercial zone,” Beverage said Tuesday.
City councilors could make changes to the zoning ordinance that would prohibit porn shops in certain parts of the city, but 1st Amendment already has received permits from the city, so any changes would not affect it, she said.
Code Enforcement Officer Garth Collins said the city issued 1st Amendment a change-of-use permit, as well as sign permits.
“It’s an allowed use,” he said. “There isn’t anything we can do about that now. I know some people were upset about it, but they need to talk to their councilors about changing the zoning because right now there’s nothing that prohibits that in any commercial zone.”
City Councilor Thomas R.W. Longstaff, D-Ward 6, has worked on city ordinances, helping to update them and craft language changes where needed.
Longstaff said Tuesday that several months ago, a rumor was circulating that an adult bookstore might open in the former CVS pharmacy downtown.
Some people asked councilors to consider changing the zoning in certain parts of downtown, as they did not think such stores would be good for the city.
“You simply can’t prohibit adult bookstores throughout the city, but in the zoning ordinance, you can allow them in some areas, which makes them not permitted in other areas,” Longstaff said.
At the time, councilors were trying to complete changes to a 160-page zoning ordinance and two big issues were holding it up: whether to allow chickens in the city and whether to prohibit adult bookstores and related businesses in certain parts of the city, Longstaff said.
City councilors voted to prohibit chickens but could not agree on the adult bookstore issue, he said. It did not appear that the adult bookstore in the former CVS store would materialize, so Longstaff proposed moving ahead and considering the adult store issue at a later date.
Had the council voted at that time to prohibit adult bookstores in certain areas, such as College Avenue, then 1st Amendment likely would not have been able to open there.
Longstaff said he does not have a strong feeling one way or the other about such a business.
“It’s really not a business I’d be inclined to patronize; it’s not something that I think will be an enhancement for the city.” he said. “On the other hand, I don’t want to impose my particular preferences on anybody.”
Longstaff said, however, that he may well support prohibiting such stores downtown. He thinks some areas, such as downtown and near schools, would not be appropriate locations, he said.
Meanwhile, Stuart said he bought the building and is having it renovated for an opening in mid-to-late November. He is not sure how many people he will hire, but does not expect to work there himself.
“We have four (employees) in Oxford — it depends on the business demands,” he said.
He said his stores never have caused any problems, although they have been broken into on occasion.
“We’ve never had a police call,” he said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247