adult bookstore side steps censors on tolleson city council.
Adult boutique catches Tolleson officials off guard 'It just got by us,' Tolleson's mayor says
Marianne Refuerzo The Arizona Republic Feb. 8, 2006 12:00 AM
Tolleson's first adult store will open Thursday, but city dignitaries won't be anywhere near this ribbon cutting.
In fact, the City Council didn't even know the "clothing store" it approved in April was actually a Fascinations Superstore, a huge emporium specializing in racy lingerie and sexually oriented novelties.
Mayor Adolfo F. Gmez doesn't like it, but he insists the southwest Valley city's hands are tied.
"At the time, we didn't know it was going to be that kind of adult business," Gmez said. "It just got by us."
The company application mentioned only that it was a retail business. When city officials pressed, the company replied that it was a clothing retailer and never divulged what kind of clothing.
The gaffe comes as cities across the Valley are struggling with regulating adult businesses. In Scottsdale, voters will likely be asked this spring to approve tougher restrictions on strip clubs enacted after adult film star Jenna Jameson bought an establishment on Scottsdale Road. Last year, Phoenix banned sexually oriented businesses from downtown after an adult bookstore was proposed near the Phoenix Suns arena. The town of Guadalupe, meanwhile, lost a bid to keep a strip club from opening near Baseline Road and Interstate 10.
After Tolleson officials learned about the store's true nature from another developer, the city passed an ordinance in September designed to keep adult businesses away from commercial and residential neighborhoods. Previously, such businesses had no obligation to disclose what type of retail they were involved in.
"Once we realized the mistakes had been made, we remedied them with the ordinance," Gmez said. "I believe we were misled, and once we found that out, we did what we had to do."
But for some, it was too little, too late.
"The people of Tolleson have been let down by our city government," longtime resident Edward de Santiago said. "They've been given the responsibility of protecting the citizens, and this is a gross misrepresentation of that authority."
The store, which carries lingerie, massage oils, adult novelties and other "romance toys," is at 83rd Avenue and McDowell Road, four blocks from Desert Oasis Elementary and a couple of miles from P.H. Gonzales Elementary, where de Santiago's daughters go to school.
"It's unimaginable that our city leaders would allow something like that to happen and worse that they're not able to do anything about it," he said.
Although residents and city officials might be unhappy about the new business, Fascinations spokesman Michael Ham said the company is just tapping a market.
"On the west side of town, there was an underserved customer base that we wanted to reach," Ham said. "We were able to comply with Tolleson zoning, so we put our store in there."
The 11,000-square-foot building will have no window displays, and customers will have to show photo identification to enter the store. If customers open merchandise, employees will ask them to throw away packaging inside the store to reduce public exposure to adult material.
"Whenever we go into a neighborhood, we are conscious about working with our neighbors and our business neighbors in order to meet community standards," Ham said.
This will be the sixth Fascinations store in Arizona. The company also has sites in Tempe, Phoenix and Tucson.